The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) touted as the second worst in history has already killed more than 500 people including almost 100 children with the majority under the age of five. The outbreak began last August in the North Kivu region, which borders Uganda and Rwanda. It is the largest outbreak since the 2014-2015 epidemic, which killed more than 11,000 people.
While Ebola-affected people in DRC are fighting for their lives, new reports claim women are being asked for sexual favors in exchange for Ebola vaccinations and treatment.
According to The Guardian, the exploitation reports were revealed during a recent national task force meeting in the city of Beni. The reports were based on feedback from focus groups conducted by researchers from the International Rescue Committee. Research by NGOs had found there was widespread mistrust in health workers in DRC.
The claims surfaced just days after the DRC’s health minister said a vaccination programme has prevented thousands of more deaths.
“In total, there have been 502 deaths and 271 people cured,” read a health ministry bulletin published late on Friday.
Commenting on the Ebola outbreak, DRC Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga said the government has been successful in preventing the spread of Ebola through vaccination programmes that have protected 76,425 people and prevented thousands of deaths.
“I believe we have prevented the spread of the epidemic in the big cities in the region,” Kalenga said adding, “the teams also managed to contain its the spread of the epidemic to neighboring countries.”
He pointed out that the biggest problem is the high mobility of the population.
Notably, the aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported on Twitter Saturday that there had been a surge in Ebola cases since January 15. It revealed that Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan, further north, were all now on alert. Unfortunately, efforts to treat and control Ebola spread in the east of the country is being hampered due to the presence of armed rebels who have terrorized the population for years.