The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) keeps spilling out of control.
The outbreak, which was declared in August last year, has so far infected more than 2,000 people across the country, according to the DRC Ministry of Health this week.
This is now the second largest ebola outbreak in history, and the worst ever to hit DRC, with up to 20 infections reported daily.
“We are now seeing eight to 20 cases recorded each day, a number that is very likely an underestimate,” said Tariq Riebl, the emergency response director at the International Rescue Committee, this week.
He added: “Just a few months ago, we were only seeing three to five cases a day. To see such a spike in cases at this stage in the outbreak means a drastic change is required. This response requires a total and complete reset.”
The outbreak has already claimed more than 1,340 lives.
DRC has been dealing with Ebola outbreaks on and off for years, however it was thought that the disease had at last been contained.
In a statement he made in July last year, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ”I am so pleased to be here with you, for a third time in three months, to personally convey my congratulations on defeating another outbreak of Ebola… You have shown a model to the world of how this terrible disease can be defeated.”
Ghebreyesus credited the DRC's Ministry of Health for being responsive and focused on long-term solutions like vaccination, disease monitoring, and training healthcare workers.
“All of this work, all of these preparations will serve you well for the next Ebola outbreak, which Minister Ilunga has widely acknowledged is a possibility,” he said.
But things are different with this outbreak: affected communities don’t trust the health system, and there has been a spate of violent attacks that compromise access to clinics and treatment.
Al Jazeera reports that there were 42 attacks on health clinics between January and May, and 85 health workers were killed or injured. Just a few weeks ago, a clinic in Vusahiro was looted and an Ebola health worker killed by a mob.
WHO spokesperson, Tarik Jasarevic, says violence is the greatest barrier to treatment: “Every time there is an incident...we are not able to provide services and go into communities. We are not able to vaccinate, not able to treat those who are ill, we are not able to follow up on those who may have been exposed to the virus.”