Seven months after an Ebola outbreak was declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the amount of reported cases has exceeded 1,000, according to a release from the International Rescue Committee
The outbreak has killed at least 629 people, according to the World Health Organization.It is the worst Ebola outbreak in the Congo and the second-worst in the world. The U.N health agency's director-general had predicted the outbreak would be contained within six months.
The World Health Organization said in an update on Thursday that the recent spike in cases was due to "increased security challenges." Earlier this month, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the outbreak was "contracting" and praised the efforts to avert a larger crisis.
Tariq Riebl of the International Rescue Committee, who is currently working in Congo, had a starkly different perspective.
58 new cases of Ebola were reported in the past week, making it the highest number in a week for 2019. Riebl thinks that the true figure could be higher, as some cases are going unreported.
"These numbers show that despite the hard work being done, this outbreak is far from over," Riebl said. "Insecurity and violence has led to the IRC and other agencies being forced to frequently suspend programs, which time and again we have seen lead to a spike in cases."
WHO reported this week that many people with Ebola are refusing to seek care in health clinics and are dying at home, further increasing the chances of transmission, since the bodies of victims are highly contagious.
Outbreak responders have also been targeted by rebel attacks; Doctors Without Borders was forced to shut down two of its Ebola clinics in Eastern Congo after repeated attacks and has called conditions at the epicenter "toxic." Eastern Congo is home to numerous armed groups and the Ebola epidemic has deepened the political and economic grievances of many in the area.
WHO teams often visit communities with a police escort for security reasons, a move that some think could undermine community trust.
“We are already almost seven months into this outbreak and at this stage we should be seeing the case rate declining, not on the rise," said Riebl. "With an optimistic outlook this outbreak is predicted to last another six months -- but realistically we could be looking towards another year of fighting this disease."