Warring militant groups are making the fight against Ebola even more dangerous than it already is

Around a month ago, Ebola popped back up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, scant days after the World Health Organization had declared that another outbreak of the disease had come to an end.

Trying to contain the Ebola virus, which is transmitted via bodily fluids, can be a nightmare for healthcare professionals, especially in areas where medical resources and the infrastructure required to rapidly deploy field investigators, ship HAZMAT gear or refrigerate vaccines is non-existent. Doing it in a war zone? So much worse. But that’s where the latest outbreak is going down.

Congo’s North Kivu Province is hotly contested by a number of militant groups, vying for control over the region’s mineral resources. There’s a lot of shooting. There’s a lot of blood. The local population, fearing for their lives, is highly mobile. This makes it hard to track Ebola or treat those who risk further spreading the virus. In the midst of this untenable situation, even those brave enough to risk their own lives to keep the disease at bay are now proving vulnerable.

From The Guardian:

The WHO said a doctor in Oicha had been hospitalised with Ebola, and 97 of his contacts had been identified. “It is the first time we have a confirmed case and contacts in an area of high insecurity. It is really the problem we were anticipating and at the same time dreading,” Salama said.

Karin Huster, coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières in Mangina, the epicentre of the outbreak, said new patients were arriving at the emergency treatment units every day.

Read the rest

Ebola in a war zone: what could go wrong?

A few days after skipping out on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola decided, ‘nah,’ cropping back up in a town of around 60,000 potential carriers called Mangina, located in Congo’s North Kivu province. Since the latest outbreak was identified, four people have died of the hemorrhagic fever. The World Health Organization is hoping that the strain of Ebola that’s shown up in North Kivu province is the same as the one that Congolese health workers and an international team of medical professionals were able to put down, this past July: they have a vaccine for that particular strain and it works fabulously. The WHO plans on giving the vaccine a go with this new outbreak—fingers crossed! Unfortunately, in addition to the possibility that the vaccine might not work for this Ebola outbreak, those tasked with stemming the spread of the disease are facing a threat that doesn’t involve contracting a virus: Working in an active war zone.

From The New York Times:

But North Kivu Province, the volatile region in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the new outbreak is centered, creates security complications that health officials did not confront in the outbreak they just defeated in northwest Équateur Province, 1,550 miles away. The World Health Organization is worried about the safety of medical workers in North Kivu and their access to areas controlled by militants.

“This new cluster is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the northwest,” said Dr. Peter Salama, the deputy director general of the health agency and the head of its emergency response unit.

Read the rest

World Health Organization: Ebola's back, baby!

So… remember a few days ago when the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo as having come to an end. Well, the disease is back on its bullshit again with a brand-new outbreak in the same damn country.

From Al Jazeera:

Four cases of the virus were confirmed in northeastern North Kivu province, the DRC's health minister said in a statement on Wednesday, though there was no indication they were linked to the country's previous - and ninth - Ebola outbreak in northwestern Equateur Province.

"Although we did not expect to face a tenth epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system," Health Minister Oly Ilunga said.

However, it might be impossible to use a vaccine to tackle the new outbreak, Peter Salama, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official, said.

Yeah, that’s right: the vaccine that worked a miracle this past go-around with Ebola may not be able to do anything for anyone during the latest outbreak of the disease. Experts currently believe that the iteration of Ebola that Congo is currently facing could be one of three strains Zaire, Sudan or Bundibugyo. If it’s the Zaire strain of the disease? Party time: the vaccine developed by Merck should work a treat on it. Unfortunately, if one of the other two possible strains is responsible for the latest outbreak, The WHO admits that there may not be a vaccine option for them to undertake. Read the rest

Latest Ebola outbreak has come to an end

After three months and 33 deaths, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been declared by the World Health Organization to have come to an end. The loss of 33 lives to the disease is absolutely tragic, but comes close to a miracle when you stop to consider the fact that the last time Ebola broke in West Africa, more than 11,000 people died. The high number of deaths in that instance was due to the fact that The WHO (not the one with Roger Daltrey,) was slow to react to the epidemic last time around, moving slowly to deploy medical resources to the regions that needed it the most. Additionally, no vaccine designed to fight the Ebola virus was put into play until near the end of the outbreak.

That wasn’t the case this time.

After being tongue lashed for dragging their ass during the last outbreak, The WHO sent specialists to Congo as soon as a handful of cases of Ebola were confirmed, back in May.

From the New York Times:

Even though Congo is familiar with Ebola — this was the country’s ninth outbreak since the disease first appeared in 1976 — more than 350 support personnel were deployed there. They included vaccinators from Guinea, where a novel Ebola vaccine was first field-tested.

The Congo outbreak marked the first in which an Ebola vaccine was readily available. In addition to giving injections to all front-line health care workers, experts used “ring vaccination” to protect all contacts of each person with the disease.

Read the rest

Vaccinations against Ebola begin in Congolese town of Bikoro

Last week, officials in charge of stemming the latest outbreak of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo began the process of inoculating healthcare workers and other individuals who may have come in direct contact with infect individuals, in the Congolese city of Mbandaka. According to The Globe & Mail, inoculations are now also being doled out in Bikoro, a town in the northwest of Congo, where 5 of the 12 confirmed cases of Ebola are believed to have originated.

It’s believed that there are at least 56 cases of the Ebola: 35 cases have been confirmed, leaving 13 probable cases and 13 suspected cases for doctors to deal with and patients to fret over.

From The Globe & Mail:

Amid worries of the spread of Ebola, several schools in the Iboko health zone, about 180 kilometres (112 miles) southeast of Mbandaka, have been closed, according to reports by U.N.-backed Radio Okapi.

Many residents in one of the Iboko localities told Radio Okapi that they prefer to stay at home to avoid infection, following the death of a woman who had Ebola in the nearby Bobala area.

One resident said that what they first thought were rumours were becoming reality with the death and that they were very scared to interact. Four confirmed Ebola deaths have taken place in the Iboko health zone, according to Congo’s health ministry.

Given that the hemorrhagic fever-causing virus has up to a 90% chance of killing those that it infects, to say that such precautions and the fear that those living in areas where the virus has cropped up during this most recent outbreak are reasonable would be an understatement. Read the rest

Two late-stage Ebola patients break quarantine, the number they may have infected is unknown

Last week, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak was confirmed to have spread to Mbandaka, a transportation hub, home to over one million people. As of the time that this post was written, 31 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the west African nation. Of those confirmed to have been afflicted, nine have died.

Oh, and three individuals confirmed to have contracted the disease, two of which who were showing significant symptoms, managed to escape quarantine and mingle with an unknown number of people.

From the Washington Post:

In a briefing in Geneva, Jean-Clement Cabrol, a doctor who had just returned from Congo, said "the patients were in the active phase of the disease, vomiting" when their families removed them from the hospital, put them on motorcycles, and took them to a religious gathering of 50 people. Ebola is contagious through bodily fluids, and both patients, who were at an acute phase of the illness, died within hours.

Those two were among the three Ebola patients who left a hospital isolation ward and reentered the general population, according to the Doctors Without Borders mission in the Congolese city of Mbandaka.

That two of the patients, at the height of their power to infect others, opted to leave the quarantine that they’d been put under reads like something monstrous. But it couldn’t be more human. In their final hours, the pair, knowing that death couldn’t have been closer, turned to the comfort of their families and their faith, hoping that it would be a balm against the unspeakable misery that they must have been in. Read the rest

Amazing photos from Kinshasa's scrap car-parts megamarket

The N’Djili district of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo is home to an enormous market of scrap auto-parts, carefully salvaged from Japan's waste-stream and meticulously arrayed on blankets by merchants eking out a marginal existence. Read the rest

UK government spent millions arming and training Congolese and Sudanese soldiers

The UK government has spent £2.4m on training and arming the military forces in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- two places where soldiers are known for atrocities, gang-rape, torture, electoral fraud and vote suppression, and gross human rights abuses. The Guardian's Diane Taylor and David Smith report:

The Enough Project, which works with the American actor George Clooney to expose human rights abuses in both Sudan and Congo, says the two countries are the scene of some of the world's most serious mass atrocities.

In information revealed in a freedom of information response from the Ministry of Defence a total of £75,406 has been spent on providing 44-week courses at the elite Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for Sudanese and Congolese forces. Other support includes military logistics, advanced command and staff courses, strategic intelligence and evaluating challenges to state sovereignty.

A total of £952,301 was spent on international peace support, which includes border security and stabilisation.

As the Sudanese opposition leader Dr Gebreil Fediel said from London, "If it was and is the intention of the UK authorities to teach Sudan's police and security officers how to conduct these matters in a democratic manner, it has failed. The brutality and genocidal activities of government of Sudan state organs against its own citizens is widely documented."

UK spent millions training police from oppressive regimes Read the rest

Revealed! Kony 2012's sinister Musical Comedy roots

From the first time I watched "Kony 2012," I always sensed a link with the storyline of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's Book of Mormon musical. But sweet fancy Moses, I did not know how closely linked the two truly were.

Aaron Stewart-Ahn tells us about the video above (which has been taken down by Invisible Children, but mirrored elsewhere):

Here's where the money has been going to: Invisible Children founder Jason Russell's vanity dance musical numbers which start off with exploitative footage of suffering children. How did no one else catch this? It makes the Kony 2012 video look subtle and sane. He's basically using this to fund his desire to make Glee.

This is where the millions are being spent: vanity musicals. Did Trey Parker write this??!! Russell has mentioned repeatedly how his ambitions were to make musicals. He intimated that he was going to make the musical popular again á la Glee, but this didn't work out—so he ended up in advocacy. It was that chat at the evangelical conference. So, here's a direct youtube link to 9m 10secs in the video where he talks about making musicals, and casually talks about his dream of documenting genocide.

That bit with the t-shirt with the African child on it is just... I'm speechless. Wonder why they've removed it from their YouTube channel, since it looks so damn expensive? It's insane, isn't it? I mean, seriously: it makes Scientology videos look charmingly naive.

UK funnyman Charlie Brooker has a bit of fun with Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 viral phenomenon, in the video embedded below. Read the rest