The Democratic Republic of Congo resumed its efforts to fight Ebola on Wednesday after a militant attack claimed 21 lives and caused a 48-hour suspension in activities.
So far, 10 people have died of Ebola and 150 people have been infected. Efforts are under way to vaccinate thousands in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, reported The Guardian.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday that the outbreak could worsen because of attacks by armed groups as well as community resistance.
The outbreak has occurred in one of the most violent parts of Congo, a base for dozens of armed groups that contest government authority and exploit mineral resources in the region.
The militia attack on Saturday took place on the outskirts of Beni. In Oïcha, about 12 miles north of Beni, armed men burned houses, killed one man and kidnapped 14 children and one woman on Monday night, according to two local officials.
Both attacks have been blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces, which has a history of targeting civilians and is considered one of the most active and violent of the armed groups operating in the region.
The insecurity in the region and a mobile population has made vaccination campaigns – like the one that helped overcome an Ebola outbreak that killed 33 people in the north-west of the country this year – less effective. Insecurity is likely to intensify as tensions rise with the approach of elections later this year, observers said.
“We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming together over the next weeks and months to create a potential perfect storm,” Peter Salama, the WHO’s emergencies chief, told a news conference in Geneva.
Although the weekly number of new cases has fallen from about 40 to about 10 in the past few weeks, and more than 11,700 people have been vaccinated, significant obstacles remained, Salama said.
The DRC, whose heavily forested interior makes it a natural home for Ebola, is at the forefront of a global campaign to combat the disease. The biggest recorded outbreak of Ebola killed around 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2014 to 2016.