Ebola cases in DR Congo rise to 78, 44 dead

An Ebola patient is lifted up by two medical workers after being admitted into a Biosecure Emergency care Unite (CUBE) on August 15, 2018 in Beni. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Ebola cases in DR Congo rise to 78, 44 dead

  • At least 1,500 people had been potentially exposed to the deadly Ebola virus in DRC’s North Kivu region
  • More than 500 people including health workers have been vaccinated against the disease

BENI, DR Congo: Seventy-eight cases of Ebola have been recorded in an outbreak in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, claiming 44 lives, DRC officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.
The latest outbreak of the viral disease, which is highly contagious and frequently fatal if untreated, has prompted a visit by the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the health ministry said in a statement.
“In all, 78 cases of haemorrhagic fever have been reported in the region, of which 51 are confirmed and 27 probable” while “24 suspect cases are under investigation,” according to reports from Congolese authorities and the WHO.
Confirmed cases are verified by way of laboratory tests on samples taken from patients. The cases treated as “probable” often concern diseased people who had a close epidemiological link with confirmed cases, but have not been tested.
Congolese authorities reported “two deaths of confirmed cases at Beni” — a trading town with a population approaching a quarter of a million people in North Kivu province.
There were also “five new confirmed cases at Mabalako, including a health worker at the Health Reference Center in Mangina,” the epicenter of the outbreak in the Beni region.
“We are expecting to see more cases,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO said it had deployed more than 100 experts including epidemiologists to the towns of Beni and Mangina, to oversee tracing, vaccination and safe burials.
But in line with UN security, there are so-called ‘red zones’ near the epicenter of Mangina which aid workers cannot enter, Jasarevic said.

More than 500 people including health workers have been vaccinated against the disease in Congo’s latest outbreak, the WHO said. Some 1,500 people have been identified as contacts of people infected with the disease that causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
The outbreak is the tenth to strike the DRC since 1976, when Ebola was first identified and named after a river in the north of the country.
It affects a part of the country wracked by violence for more than 20 years, from all-out war to insurgency and sustained ethnic clashes.
Forty-one deaths were reported in North Kivu and three in neighboring Ituri region to the north, according to the health ministry.
Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga had talks with the director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, regarding CDC training programs for epidemiologists in the field, an official statement said.
The ministry’s directorate for disease control announced on Tuesday that doctors in Beni had started to use a novel treatment called mAb114 to treat patients with Ebola.
The treatment is “the first therapeutic drug against the virus to be used in an active Ebola epidemic in the DRC,” it said.
mAb114 is an antibody initially isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in the western DRC city of Kikwit in 1995, it added.
Ebola has long been considered incurable, though swift isolation and the rapid treatment of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration has helped some of the patients to survive.
The quest for a vaccine grew increasingly urgent during an Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in West African neighboring states Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013-15.


Smugglers pave path for migrants from Africa to Europe

Migrants attempt to open the rear door of a truck at the Brittany ferry port in Ouistreham, northwestern France, on September 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 44 min 7 sec ago
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Smugglers pave path for migrants from Africa to Europe

  • Migrants gather in Morocco because “it's the best place to wait for the right moment to cross” over borders with Africa
  • Europol estimates migrants pay on average €3,000-5,000 for a complete trip to Europe

MADRID: They scale barbed-wire topped fences and cross the sea in inflatable boats or jet skis — more than 36,000 migrants entered Spain this year seeking a better life in Europe. Almost all of them relied on smugglers to make the crossing. Ousman Umar, who made a five-year journey from Ghana to Spain, said it was “impossible” to travel thousands of kilometres from sub-Saharan Africa through deserts and other inhospitable areas without the aid of gangs.
“There is almost no chance of reaching Europe illegally” without paying traffickers, Robert Crepinko, the head of the human smuggling unit at Europol, the European Union's policing arm, told AFP. Ninety percent of migrants who enter Europe are helped by human traffickers, he added, citing a 2015 study.
Spain has become the main entry point for migrants arriving this year, after Italy and Greece. “The journey can last one year, two years, depending on the ring and the funds you have, because the trafficking networks will take you as far as you can pay,” Jose Nieto Barroso of the national police's human smuggling unit UCRIF told AFP.
Migrants gather in Morocco because “it's the best place to wait for the right moment to cross” over to Spain, said Nieto Barroso.
The vast majority pay for a spot on an inflatable dinghy or to take part in a mass run on the heavily fortified border fences that surround Ceuta and Melilla, two tiny Spanish territories in North Africa that share the EU's only land borders with Africa. Human traffickers charge 18 euros ($21) to try to scale the border fences, 200-700 euros to join a packed boat to cross the narrow Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco by just 15 kilometers (9 miles) at its narrowest point, or up to 5,000 euros to make the trip by jet ski, according to Spanish police. Europol estimates migrants pay on average €3,000-5,000 for a complete trip to Europe. Once in Spain, many want to move on to wealthier northern European countries like Britain, France and Germany where they believe they will have better opportunities, or because they already have family there. Once again, human traffickers play a role in getting them there. The smugglers promise migrants they will be rescued at sea by the Spanish coast guard and then taken to migrant reception centers where “in three or four days members of the network will be in the area and get you out,” Nieto Barroso said. The gang will then take the migrants to another country or, in worst-case scenarios, pass them on to other gangs that exploit them. Women are sometimes forced into prostitution while men are used as slave labor in agriculture or made to beg in the streets. The rings “supply people. They say: 'I have 8, 12, 15 people from the sub-Sahara who can be put to work',” said Nieto Barroso.
Gangs take advantage of the “brutal collapse” of overcrowded migrant reception centers, and gain access to migrants through nonprofit organizations which work with the newcomers, he added. Paloma Favieres of the Spanish Committee for Refugee Aid (CEAR) denounced the reception Spain gives migrants as “chaotic.”
She said she notifies police whenever she believes a migrant is at risk of falling prey to human traffickers but stressed it was up to police “to fight against crime.”
“I don't get any help from the police,” she told AFP.
With migrant arrivals to Spain's southern shores on the rise, more of them are heading north to the border town of Irun, some sleeping rough as they wait to cross into neighbouring France, or to Santander, where police in August arrested two people for hiding migrants in their vehicle which was going to board a ferry bound for Britain.
Police smashed 25 human trafficking rings in Spain last year but many more remain active in Africa, recruiting more migrants.