The World Health Organization chief on Monday urged different political factions in the Democratic Republic of Congo to unite in the battle against Ebola, warning that the risk of spread “remains very high”.
Nearly 1 200 people have died since last August, when the DRC declared a 10th outbreak of Ebola in the country in 40 years.
“Ebola does not take sides. It is the enemy of everybody,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the opening of the organisation’s annual assembly in Geneva.
Efforts to roll back the outbreak have been hampered by fighting in the affected regions and attacks on medical teams, as well as locals who view the international effort at prevention with suspicion.
Tedros said he had met with the DRC’s president and with opposition leaders “to urge a bipartisan approach to ending this outbreak.”
“Unless we unite to end this outbreak we run the risk it will become more widespread and more expansive and more aggressive,” he said.
The WHO chief hailed that efforts to rein in the virus, including the vaccination of more than 120 000 people, have so far succeeded in limiting the outbreak to the conflict-wracked North Kivu province and neighbouring Ituri region of the DRC.
But, he warned, “I emphasise ‘so far’. The risk of spread remains very high.”
Tedros described the outbreak as “one of the most complex health emergencies any of us have ever faced”, pointing for instance to the dozens of attacks on health facilities in North Kivu since the start of the year.
“We are not just fighting a virus,” he insisted.
“We’re fighting insecurity. We’re fighting violence. We’re fighting misinformation… and we’re fighting the politicisation of an outbreak.”