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.


Hollande fuels Rafale fighter jet controversy in India

In this file photo taken on October 27, 2017 Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier (L), French Defence Minister Florence Parly (C) and chairman of Reliance Group Anil Ambani arrive at MIHAN SEZ, where she will participates in the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL), in Nagpur. (AFP)
Updated 11 min 44 sec ago
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Hollande fuels Rafale fighter jet controversy in India

  • Hollande denied any conflict of interest with Reliance, which partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend Julie Gayet in 2016

NEW DELHI: Former French president Francois Hollande has fueled controversy over India’s multi-billion-dollar 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, saying that France was given no choice on the Indian partner for manufacturer Dassault.
His comments on Friday stoked debate over a subject which has gained significant traction in India in recent weeks, since the opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of favoring a private conglomerate over a public company in the aircraft deal.
The party alleges Modi gave preferential treatment to industrialist Anil Ambani, the billionaire chairman of Reliance Group, to the detriment of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Officials in India and France say Dassault had freely chosen to partner with Reliance, despite Ambani having no previous experience in the aeronautics sector.
“We did not have a say in that,” Hollande told investigative website Mediapart. “It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani.
“We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us,” added Hollande, who was president of France from 2012-2017.
French firm Dassault had spent years negotiating a deal for 126 fighter jets to be manufactured in India with HAL, but talks had stalled.
On taking office, the Modi government canceled the negotiations and decided to directly purchase 36 jets made in France.
Hollande denied any conflict of interest with Reliance, which partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend Julie Gayet in 2016.
“That is why, moreover, this group (Reliance) did not have to give me any thanks for anything. I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet.”
Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of a meeting in Canada on Friday, the former French leader insisted that France “did not choose Reliance in any way.”
When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande said he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this.”

Contacted by AFP, France’s embassy in New Delhi did not comment.
India’s defense ministry wrote on Twitter that neither the Indian nor French government “had any say in the commercial decision.”
The French foreign ministry later issued a statement saying that “the sole obligations of the French government were to assure delivery and the quality of the equipment.”
Paris was “in no way involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners,” it added.
For its part, Dassault Aviation said in a statement Friday that the contract was “a government-to-government agreement.”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has led the opposition’s focus on the deal, wrote: “Thanks to Francois Hollande, we now know he (Modi) personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani.”
“The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonored the blood of our soldiers,” Gandhi added.
Foreign manufacturers obtaining arms contracts in India are obliged to reinvest a portion of the sums collected in India.
Under the Rafale deal, France must spend amounts totalling around half the eight billion euros ($9.4 bn) paid by the Indian government.
Dassault has invested more than 100 million euros in its joint venture with Reliance.
India — the world’s largest defense importer — has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter long-standing territorial disputes with its nuclear-armed neighbors, including a strengthening China.
It intends to use compensations payments such as in the Rafale deal to create a local defense industry.