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.


US says ‘committed’ to defeating Daesh; allies skeptical

Some of the 20 ministers, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, pose for a photo prior to the 55th Munich Security Conference in southern Germany, on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 24 min 54 sec ago
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US says ‘committed’ to defeating Daesh; allies skeptical

  • Acting US Defense Secretary Shanahan envisions a ‘bigger and stronger’ coalition to fight Daesh globally

MUNICH: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Friday that the US is committed to defeating Daesh in the Middle East and beyond, but officials said European allies are skeptical of Washington’s pledges.
US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December that he was withdrawing all 2,000 US troops from Syria surprised and rattled allies. US officials have crisscrossed the Middle East in recent weeks to reassure them that Washington remains committed to the region.
Trump’s Syria decision was opposed by top aides, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit, leaving his deputy Shanahan in charge of the Pentagon.
“While the time for US troops on the ground in northeast Syria winds down, the United States remains committed to our coalition’s cause, the permanent defeat of Daesh, both in the Middle East and beyond,” Shanahan said after a meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
The meeting included about a dozen defense ministers from the coalition to defeat Daesh. Kurdish-led fighters are battling to capture Daesh’s last major stronghold in Syria, but even without territory, the militant group is widely seen as a continuing threat.
Shanahan said he envisioned a “bigger and stronger” coalition to fight Daesh globally. “We will continue to support our local partners’ ability to stand up to the remnants of Daesh,” he added.
However, European officials said they were given few details during the closed-door meeting in Munich and many questions remain. “We are still trying to understand how the Americans plan to withdraw. I don’t think there is any clarity still,” one European official, speaking on the condition of anonymity said.
Another official said Shanahan did not provide allies with a timeline of the American withdrawal from Syria and allies expressed skepticism during the meeting. A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no commitments were made during the meeting and there was little discussion about timelines.
“These meetings don’t tend to have specific deliverables or decisions, it tends to be more focused on taking stock of where we are,” the US official said.
Trump has said he expects a formal announcement as early as this week that the coalition fighting Daesh has reclaimed all the territory held by the group.
Around 20 ministers including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany will take part in the meeting, according to one source.
US forces are the largest contributors by far to the anti-Daesh coalition and their pullout will leave a vacuum in Syria where major powers are jostling for influence.

Withdrawal issue
“The withdrawal of the American troops from Syria will evidently be at the heart of discussions,” said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly before the meeting.
“Once the so-called caliphate no longer has any territory, the international community will have to guarantee that there will be no resurgence of Daesh in Syria or elsewhere,” her ministry’s statement said.
The end of Daesh territory in Syria is heightening worries about experienced militants and foreign fighters escaping and forming new Daesh cells in Syria or beyond.
Once American forces leave, another complication emerges: The future of areas in northern Syria controlled by Kurdish YPG forces, a key US ally in the fight against militants but a militia branded terrorists by Turkey.