Congo’s health ministry says Ebola spreads to 2nd province

A family member of a deceased, unconfirmed Ebola patient, reacts inside an Ebola Treatment Centre run by The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) on August 13, 2018, in Beni. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Congo’s health ministry says Ebola spreads to 2nd province

  • The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province
  • The work to contain Ebola is challenged by the presence of several armed groups

BENI, Congo: Congo’s latest deadly Ebola outbreak has spread into a neighboring province, the health ministry said Tuesday, as health workers began using an experimental treatment for the disease.
Health officials are hoping the mAb114 therapy, isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in 1995, will be effective in this outbreak that so far has 30 confirmed cases including 14 deaths.
Five patients have been given the treatment, said the World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Four other experimental treatments have been approved for use, he said.
The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province in Congo’s turbulent northeast when a man who had been treated for heart problems in Mangina, where the outbreak was declared Aug. 1, returned home, the health ministry said. He has since died and tests confirmed he had Ebola.
Vaccinations began last week in Mangina and Beni, the major town about 30 kilometers (18 miles) away where Ebola treatment centers have been set up. Health authorities are using what is called a ring vaccination technique in which health workers are vaccinated first, along with contacts of Ebola patients and their contacts.
Seven of the nearly 75 health workers in Mangina have been infected, Tedros said. More than 200 health workers have been vaccinated, along with 20 residents in the Beni region, he said. There are 3,000 vaccine doses in Congo.
The work to contain Ebola is challenged by the presence of several armed groups in the densely populated region close to the Ugandan border. WHO has called for secure access to all affected populations and for the cessation of hostilities.
“The virus is dangerous to us all,” Tedros said.
There are designated “red zones” where health workers cannot go because of the insecurity, raising concerns that cases could easily spread there, he said.
“We are on an epidemiological precipice,” WHO’s emergency preparedness chief, Dr. Peter Salama, said in a Twitter post, with a limited window of opportunity to stop the outbreak from spreading into those areas.
For now the epicenter of the outbreak is in and around Beni so aid workers have been able to move with relative safety, said Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Congo country director for Mercy Corps.
The area around Mangina and Beni, however, is “almost completely surrounded by armed groups,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.
North Kivu is densely populated with more than 1 million displaced people, and while this is Congo’s tenth Ebola outbreak health officials have said the local population is not familiar with the disease. That makes outreach more challenging.
“The unknown can create more fear,” Marcoux said.
The WHO chief said the risk of international spread is low. He said officials have been in contact with neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.


Filipino rebel chiefs become officials under peace deal

President Rodrigo Duterte, political leaders and officials flash the peace sign following Friday’s oath-taking ceremony in Manila. (AP)
Updated 22 February 2019
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Filipino rebel chiefs become officials under peace deal

  • It is a very difficult and challenging process, says MILF spokesman

MANILA: Some of the fiercest Muslim rebel commanders in the southern Philippines were sworn in Friday as administrators of a new Muslim autonomous region in a delicate milestone to settle one of Asia’s longest-raging rebellions.

President Rodrigo Duterte led a ceremony to name Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Murad Ebrahim and some of his top commanders as among 80 administrators of a transition government for the five-province region called Bangsamoro.

About 12,000 combatants with thousands of firearms are to be demobilized starting this year under the peace deal.  Thousands of other guerrillas would disarm if agreements under the deal would be followed, including providing the insurgents with livelihood to help them return to normal life.

“We would like to see an end of the violence,” Duterte said. 

“After all, we go to war and shoot each other counting our victories not by the progress or development of the place but by the dead bodies that were strewn around during the violent years.”

About 150,000 people have died in the conflict over several decades and stunted development in the resource-rich region. 

Duterte promised adequate resources, a daunting problem in the past.

The Philippine and Western governments and the guerrillas see an effective Muslim autonomy as an antidote to nearly half a century of secessionist violence, which Daesh could exploit to gain a foothold.

“The dream that we have fought for is now happening and there’s no more reason for us to carry our guns and continue the war,” rebel forces spokesman Von Al-Haq said in an interview ahead of the ceremony.

Several commanders long wanted for deadly attacks were given safety passes to be able to travel to Manila and join the ceremony, including Abdullah Macapaar, who uses the nom de guerre Commander Bravo, Al-Haq said. 

Known for his fiery rhetoric while wearing his camouflage uniform and brandishing his assault rifle and grenades, Macapaar will be one of the 41 regional administrators from the rebel front.

Duterte will pick his representatives to fill the rest of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, which will also act as a regional Parliament with Murad as the chief minister until regular officials are elected in 2022.

Members of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a 1996 autonomy deal that has largely been seen as a failure, will also be given seats in the autonomous government.

Disgruntled fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front broke off and formed new armed groups, including the notorious Abu Sayyaf, which turned to terrorism and banditry after losing its commanders early in battle. 

The Abu Sayyaf has been blacklisted by the US as a terrorist organization and has been suspected of staging a suspected Jan. 27 suicide bombing that killed 23 mostly churchgoers in a Roman Catholic cathedral on southern Jolo island.

“We have already seen the pitfalls,” Al-Haq said, acknowledging that the violence would not stop overnight because of the presence of the Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups, some linked to Daesh. 

“It’s a very difficult and challenging process.”