Agricultural Sustainability in the DRCDespite the Democratic Republic of the Congo harboring the second-largest cultivable land in the world at 80 million hectares, food insecurity and malnutrition are pressing issues in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) characterizes almost 22 million of the 89.5 million residents as severely food insecure, despite 70% of the employed population working in the agricultural industry. Lack of infrastructure combined with prolonged national armed conflict has led to only 10 million hectares currently under cultivation, leaving enormous potential for agricultural and economic growth. Agricultural sustainability in the DRC is crucial to address food insecurity and poverty.

The Joint WFP-FAO Resilience Program in DRC

A combined effort from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) focuses on the optimization of agriculture production as well as market revisions and improvements to reduce food insecurity and bolster a declining national economy. Improving agricultural sustainability in the DRC could prove effective in stabilizing a region with enormous agricultural potential.

The Need for Agricultural Sustainability

Providing direct financial relief to the DRC has proven both necessary and effective, especially in the wake of nationwide flooding in 2019 and 2020 on top of widespread armed conflict and displacement. Since 2018, USAID reports that the DRC has received roughly $570 million worth of direct food relief. However, direct relief does not equal sustainability and is a relatively short-term solution. The joint program from the WFP and FAO implements successful strategies to provide much-needed agricultural sustainability in the DRC and creates an important foundation for further improvements.

The Benefits of Cooperation

Promoting organizational cooperation and improving managerial structure has allowed for combined agricultural improvements nationwide. Since 2017, this project has reached 30,000 small farm households and stimulated cooperation that has improved organizational structure and operational capacities. This cooperation has allowed for the distribution of newer agricultural technologies and concepts such as improved seeds and more advanced tools to optimize production.

Increased cooperation has also helped eliminate local conflicts between farmers and has increased the total area of land being cultivated. The program has also provided 7,000 local women with functional literacy education, allowing for more female community engagement as well as involvement in managerial duties in farming communities.

Addressing Nutrition in the DRC

At a local level, the joint program has implemented enhanced nutritional programs to utilize the increasing resources. Increased cooperation and education have allowed for the growth of crops with enhanced nutritional value. To promote long-term sustainability, in 2020, the project utilized direct aid to establish 300 vegetable gardens, reaching 13,510 residents. The program also held 150 culinary demonstrations regarding optimal cooking techniques that are both affordable and nutritious.

Developing the DRC’s Infrastructure

Large agricultural areas such as the DRC rely heavily on infrastructure for transportation and storage of goods. The joint program has fixed 193 kilometers of agricultural roads since implementation in 2017, with 65% of the road rehabilitators being women.

Not only has the program enhanced transportation capabilities but it has also constructed 20 different storage buildings as well as 75 community granaries, allowing for the long-term storage of agricultural products. This enhanced storage capacity reduces waste from spoilage and allows product to be sold during favorable selling seasons, allowing for advanced agricultural sustainability in the DRC.

The Joint WFP-FAO resilience program in the DRC has made significant accomplishments in the country. With further efforts, agricultural sustainability in the DRC can be further developed to improve poverty in the region.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

The Congo and Economic Decline: Conflict Escalation and The Need For AidThe Democratic Republic of the Congo, otherwise known as the DRC, is blessed with abundant natural resources, advantageous geographical trade points, and a booming youth population. It is also a nation struggling with economic and political tensions that threaten to tear it apart. Conflict within the Sub-Saharan African Continent is not new, as with many developing regions. Yet when it comes to the DRC, its current conflict takes on several different forms; from systemic economic mismanagement to tense ethnic divisions. The DRC has a series of underlying problems. Both its leaders and regional partners need to resolve should any progress be made. One key issue, however, is the systemic economic decline of the country.

As noted by a UN Economic Commission, economic woes point out several grievances against the current government. For example, they highlight the hoarding and mismanagement of natural resources and inefficient governmental models. The models focus more on federal power rather than balancing out authority to local government. As the DRC borders with conflict-ridden neighbors such as Rwanda and Sudan, it has to deal with incoming migrants and persistent border security threats. When analyzing the economic decline of the DRC, the direct implications on the current escalating conflict must also be considered.

A Flawed Economic Policy and Aid Agenda

One of the central weak points of the DRC is its flawed economic policy. The issues of the policy include the disproportionate distribution of natural resources, lack of adequate investments in capital and infrastructure and lackluster trade agreements. In addition, the DRC has a long way to go before it can overcome its systemic economic woes.

The DRC’s inefficient two federal government barely understands the complexity of localized economies. The federal economy and general stock market are important. However, local markets and financial growth is also vital, if not more important. For instance, while the DRC is one of the largest suppliers of natural resources such as diamonds and cobalt, it is one of the top eight countries struggling with hunger and humanitarian assistance deficits. Analysts argue that conflict and hunger are interdependent. This is due to conflict limits agricultural production and disrupts one’s income. As a result, it is increasingly difficult for economically challenged nations such as the DRC. Due to recent wars in the Eastern Congo and a series of political conflicts around its borders, the DRC has faced a severe brunt in its ability to generate ample economic income.

Violence and Conflict

Violence and conflict help contribute to the economic decline of the DRC. Ethnic violence, the spread of Ebola and high levels of corruption hurt the overall economic benefit of Cobalt mining. In contrast, it sponsored those who benefit from the current conflicts in the DRC. The UN Economic Commission found that despite an increase in prices for rare minerals, the DRC still struggles economically due to inadequate pro-poor development programs and mass unemployment. Nigerian economist, Dambisa Moyo, argues that the fatal flaw in international aid and intervention is a lack of focus on regional infrastructure projects, targeted educational and job skill programs, and communal credit programs. Moyo furthers that when it comes to the DRC specifically, the IMF has a history of giving over 700mn dollars to the developing nation, only for it to be eaten up by kleptocrats.

The individuals are susceptible to several factors that escalate conflict and increase the influence of conflict entrepreneurs. The economic decline of the DRC creates an environment most profitable for conflict entrepreneurs and profiteers. The mass hunger and poverty in the DRC feed into several factors that contribute to conflict. For example, corrupt warlords who prey on struggling workers to militias who target local villages further worsen the issue.

A prime example is the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group that has terrorized the eastern Congo for years and has brutally murdered over 100 people. The ADF feeds off of two main causes. The first is the lack of governmental authority. The second is the DRC’s insecurity, armed groups with murky agendas and the government’s failure. It is more important than ever that international aid groups take action to put a stop to mass poverty and the violence it causes.

Policy Reforms for the Future

Although the DRC is in a dark spot, the reforms of the government and international community can undertake to help improve the situation. First, the DRC needs to localize its credit lines and monetary policy. A big issue for state factions and communal governments is a lack of financial authority. Ensuring a gradual decentralization process will increase income flow and help legitimize local elections and state power.

The International Finance Corporation, a branch of the World Bank, recently started a program that gave small credit loans and financed new investment credit lines in local areas within West Africa. This initiative helps fund hundreds of small and micro-businesses and shake off the potential risks of debt or inflation. Another potential solution is to focus more directly on local infrastructure investments. Recent studies show the four most effective ways to combat poverty in the DRC. These include emphasizing the accumulation of job creation, macroeconomic stabilization, rehabilitation of key infrastructure and structural reforms for a healthy market environment. Thus, if the following reforms are undertaken, the aforementioned goals will be within reach.

Economic recovery, conflict and the developing world are difficult. Oftentimes, nations like the DRC must resolve a series of ethnic and political conflicts before they becoming a top-tier economy. However, the DRC’s leaders must be aware of the role its declining economy plays in the escalating conflict. They should also acknowledge the necessity of reforming key policy. Reaching out to regional NGOs, the African Union and working with international partners is a step in the right direction. Additionally, supporting bills such as the International Affairs Budget and Girls Lead Act also promotes transformative growth and provides essential resources and support.

Juliette Reyes

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in CongoThe Republic of the Congo is a country located in central Africa, right next door to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo River separates the capital, Brazzaville, from the neighboring country’s capital, Kinshasa. Both cities were formerly one capital under French Equatorial territory. After the Republic of the Congo gained independence in 1960, a series of coup d’états and successive rulers from 1963-1997 lead to political and economic instability throughout the country, eventually culminating in a civil war in 1997 and ending in 2001. The inefficient political rule that followed the war exacerbated the economic devastation of the country. A dictatorial leadership under Denis Sassou Nguesso began when he became president in peace agreements formulated in 2001. The political instability in the Republic of the Congo is necessary for understanding the economic disarray throughout the population. It is also important for understanding why poverty in Congo remains rife despite international aid interventions.

What Poverty Looks Like in the Republic of the Congo

Poverty in Congo is vast and covers all areas of the country. This is mostly because the civil war displaced over one-third of the population. The return of natives to a weakened Congo led to many facing poverty and disease from poor infrastructure and government.

Rural areas are affected most out of the country, as there are many people who do not have efficient access to clean water sources or sanitation. Artesian wells or unclarified water sources account for over 20% of all water access throughout the entire country. In addition, there is little improvement in urban areas. Much of the population, almost 1.5 million, live in unplanned settlements with little sanitation procedure or adequate housing throughout the two largest cities of the country, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. This creates a difficult atmosphere to combat preventable diseases like malaria and various respiratory or parasitic diseases.

Another problem facing is the country is the lack of, and lack of access to, education. Over a third of the population never enrolled or completed primary school. Higher education has even less attendance, with only about 3% completing. This is mostly because there is a severe lack of access to basic educational materials. Also, many girls have little to no encouragement to get an education. This leaves half of the population out of school. This impacts the Republic of Congo’s human capital, which makes it harder for people to find jobs domestically or internationally. Therefore, this leads to a higher unemployment rate across the country. Lack of education leads to a lack of opportunity.

The Good News

The Republic of the Congo has been making great strides in trying to counteract its issues since 2001. It created The Future Path project with the aim of modernizing society as a whole. The plan also aims to industrialize the economy to help the Congo gain international footing. Increasing jobs and economic performance through large-scale building projects and international cooperation are the goals of the government.

The World Bank is currently assisting the Republic of the Congo with economics and societal development projects with 10 current national projects worth $451 million. The new Country Partnership Framework will help improve the Congo’s economic management, help create “economic diversification and strengthen its human capital and basic service provision, particularly in the areas of health, education and social protection.” Improvement of water sources and better sanitation is a priority of the government and also many initiatives funded by the World Bank. The World Bank is also financing $61.31 million in emergency COVID-19 funding to help combat the pandemic in the country. The current levels of poverty in Congo and the level of disease exposed to people exacerbate the issue of COVID-19.

What Needs to be Done

The overall gross national income of the country has improved by 50% since 2011. In addition, improvements in education account for 14% of poverty reduction as a direct result of improved standards of living. Educational skill gains and an uptick in the enrollment of girls in urban areas also attributed to lowering unemployment levels. This subsequently increased educational enrollment levels across the country. However, rural education slightly deteriorated. This is because the rural population with only primary or no educational achievement increased from 46% to 53%. This highlights how the government needs to focus the fight on poverty in Congo in rural areas. The government needs to focus on encouraging more students into education past the primary level. They must also reduce gender disparities in school to create a more holistic student body and future workforce.

Overall, the Republic of the Congo has been making great strides toward leveling its poverty numbers. While the current situation is not perfect, the reduction of poverty in Congo and the improved standards of living are miles away from what the country experienced in 2001.

– Avery Benton
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Economy in the DRC
On June 25, 2020, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo declared that the 10th Ebola outbreak was over in three provinces. With the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country, Ebola cases have also increased significantly as social distancing became difficult in medical facilities. As of August 13, 2020, there have been 86 confirmed Ebola cases in the northwest Equateur province. As of July 3, 2020, there were a total of 3,481 cases in the entire country. With Ebola and COVID-19 cases rising, medical costs, personnel and resources will heavily affect the economy as government officials scramble to contain the outbreaks. Here is some information about how Ebola has affected the economy in the DRC.

Keeping Inflation in Check

The recent outbreaks in the Equateur province are in remote areas, regions that are difficult for medical supplies to reach. The lack of access to these areas requires an increase in medical cost support, however, the DRC currently cannot shoulder the financial burden due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy in the DRC has been stressed because of COVID-19 costs and has been adjusting rates in order to control inflation. During the week of August 10, the Central Bank of DRC increased the key interest rate from 7.5% to 18.5% in order to prevent inflation. Despite the pandemic, Central Bank experts are expecting an increase in the economic growth of 2.4% at the end of 2020. This would be a downward trend from expectations at the beginning of 2020.

Tracking COVID-19 and Ebola

The DRC will only be able to contain both viruses if it can properly document progression and transmission. However, the DRC has more than 500 regions of difficult terrain that do not have access to basic resources. These remote, populous areas are unable to receive medical resources or be properly tracked. They have less access to electricity, medical personnel and resources. The economy in the DRC has exacerbated most funds in order to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that almost 13,000 people have received vaccinations since the 11th Ebola outbreak that started near the end of July 2020.

International Aid

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is delivering an additional $7.5 million in humanitarian assistance to the DRC for Ebola. With these funds and WHO’s vaccine distribution procedures, testing facilities and medical personnel volunteers, the DRC will be able to more efficiently combat these pandemics.

Additionally, the DRC is receiving a $363 million loan from the International Monetary fund, $47 million from the World Bank and $40 million in emergency funds from the United Nations to strengthen the economy. These monetary aids will go toward the COVID-19 medical response, 11th Ebola outbreak vaccinations and necessary medical facilities.

Conclusion

Despite battling two pandemics at once, the DRC has maintained its composure and enacted the proper medical responses with the resources it has. The economy in the DRC has suffered because of the new Ebola outbreak. However, the DRC’s mission and determination to wipe out the last of the Ebola infections are unparalleled by previous responses. The DRC is on track to declaring another Ebola outbreak over.

Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

3 Things to Know About Hunger in Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country in Central Africa. The country is extremely large compared with those around it. Through deduction, it is easy to say that the population is very large. Notably, violence within the country affected Congo. This, in turn, leads to higher rates of hunger. Below are three things everyone should know about hunger in the Congo region:

3 Things About Hunger in the Congo Region

  1. Congo has a population of 100 million people. As Africa’s second-largest country and one of the least developed, the DRC ranks very high on the scale for those who go hungry. The DRC ranked 179 out of 189 in 2019 for the Human Development Index. This is due to a large amount of violence and hunger that occur within the country. Because of this, the DRC is privy to the second-largest crisis in the world for global poverty and hunger, after Yemen. Of the 100 million people in the country, roughly 15.6 million of them are severely food insecure. Hunger in the Congo region is a large humanitarian issue — with organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) helping to end the crisis.
  2. Violence is a leading factor in food insecurity. Within the DRC, violence concentrates quite heavily. This makes it difficult for farmers to find enough security within their work to feel safe enough to go out to the fields. As a result, this increasingly causes food shortages. In 2018, more than 15 million people were displaced due to violence within the country. This large exodus leads to peoples’ inability to work and thus, money is practically impossible to come by. Due to the hunger in the Congo region and displacement within the country, some people are eating the raw seeds they originally would plant, to satisfy their needs.
  3. There is still hope for those in Congo. Though the circumstances are dire and may seem too bleak for a silver lining, there is proof of change happening in the DRC every day. Organizations, such as the WFP and Action Against Hunger, provide relief to these people who are suffering the detrimental effects of food insecurity. Action Against Hunger reached 143,749 people with its nutrition and health programs. Additionally, the organization reached another 52,279 people with food security and livelihood programs. In 2019, the WFP reached 6.9 million people with food and nutrition services. In this same vein, the WFP is now able to reach more than 7 million people, in 2020. Working toward stability to decrease hunger in the Congo region is a widespread and challenging fight. Though many people face displacement and go without food, with the help of organizations, it is clear that this future for Congo can be avoided.

Continue the Support for Change

The more international aid that is directed toward the Congo, the more people will receive much-needed help. Supporting organizations that give aid to those in need is extremely important, for this exact reason. The support will help save lives and create stability for years to come, within the Congo region and likewise, the effects can ripple throughout the global economy.

Natalie Belford
Photo: Flickr

Viral Outbreaks During COVID-19While COVID-19 has received much attention in the global health discussion, many developing countries continue to fight other viral outbreaks. This highlights why foreign aid is so crucial. Although COVID-19 has affected every nation, some countries will suffer more than others. This article will highlight three of the deadliest viral outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic that have been announced by the WHO in 2020 and the current, global efforts to combat them.

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Since the largest Ebola outbreak killed 11,000 people in West Africa during 2014–2016, the virus has been successfully contained in most countries. This, thanks to the efforts of front-line workers and organizations, such as the WHO.

However, the DRC has been fighting its 10th outbreak since August 2018. As of June 2020, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has infected 3,470 and killed 2,280 people. In 2019, the WHO named the viral outbreak a global health emergency. Then, in April 2020, just as the Ministry of Health neared the end of the countdown to end EVD, there was a new outbreak in the city of Mbandaka.

In the DRC, EVD has a current fatality rate of more than 60%, which is more than five times that of the new coronavirus or influenza. However, the transmission rate is much lower. Advancements in vaccines and “CUBE” containment rooms have helped stop the spread of the Ebola virus. By vaccinating more than 14,000 health workers in neighboring countries, the WHO contained the disease in the DRC. Yet notably, the organization stresses that controlling the epidemic requires more international collaboration and support.

Measles in Africa, South and Central America and Beyond

In addition to COVID-19 and Ebola, the DRC is also battling the world’s largest measles epidemic. Another of the viral outbreaks, which started during COVID-19 (in 2019) and infected around 300,000 people. Since then, the numbers are fewer in the DRC. In 2020 however, more measles outbreaks surfaced in Burundi and the Central African Republic. Additionally, new outbreaks resurfaced in Mexico, while Brazil still recovered from an outbreak of measles in 2019 that infected over 50,000 people in Sao Paulo. The virus has also emerged in Asia and Eastern Europe in 2019.

Similar to the new coronavirus, the measles virus has a high transmission rate and causes complications in a minority of infected individuals. War and displacement also contribute to the spread of the disease. In Burundi, the outbreak started in a refugee camp where refugees from the DRC were thought to have carried it into the country. Other factors such as malnutrition also contributed to the increased mortality rate of measles in these areas.

Yellow Fever in Africa

This mosquito-spread disease is endemic to tropical parts of Africa as well as South and Central America. However, the majority of outbreaks occur in sub-Saharan Africa where 610 million people are at risk of contracting the virus. Yellow fever has long been a challenge in these areas where it infects around 200,000 and kills 30,000 — every year. For instance, in 2020 alone, reports indicated new viral outbreaks of yellow fever in five African countries.

A safe and effective vaccine has been developed and helped reduce outbreaks in the 20th century. However, due to shortages of the vaccine and poor government implementation, the majority of the population does not receive it. Alternatively, it is usually only compulsory for travelers. Furthermore, since the virus is re-occurring, more research is required to keep adapting the vaccine to different strains of yellow fever.

The Takeaway

As evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, viral outbreaks are disruptive and have major economic and social consequences. Poor health reduces the life-span, productivity and life satisfaction of any population. These effects usually fall hardest on the world’s poor — who have less access to treatments or safe water access and sanitation.

Due to the commoditization of the pharmaceutical industry, the populations that need medical intervention most receive it the least. This is simply because they can not afford such expensive treatment. Specific antiviral treatments rarely exist. The best method to reduce the impact of viral outbreaks in impoverished countries is by building better healthcare systems and reducing poverty. As stated by Tedros Adhanom, director of the WHO, “Unless we address [the] root causes – the weak health system, the insecurity and the political instability – there will be another outbreak.”

Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in the republic of congo
The Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, is a central African country with about 5.2 million residents. Since most of the country is covered in tropical forests, more than half of the population lives in two large southern cities, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. It’s one of Africa’s top 10 oil producers and has extensive untapped mineral resources. Despite this, The Republic of Congo faces high rates of extreme poverty due to economic crises from oil price drops as well as ongoing conflicts since the 1990s. The economic declines have diminished state funds and the conflicts arising from political unrest led to the government no longer prioritizing healthcare in the Republic of Congo.

This has created an inadequate healthcare system characterized by a lack of resources, lack of healthcare professionals, insufficient access to and inability to deliver health services. The Republic of Congo is currently facing high rates of TB, HIV, malaria and maternal mortality.

Steps Forward

Fortunately, despite these earlier challenges, the government began reprioritizing healthcare in the Republic of Congo with the help of various aid organizations. This revamped investment started in 2009 with a partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to reduce maternal mortality.

UNFPA worked closely with UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank to help the Republic of Congo government outline a maternal mortality reduction program. This program was boosted by the 6 million dollars that UNFPA made available to the country. In cities, free cesarean sections were made available as well as more family planning resources. This resulted in a 45% decline in maternal mortality from 2005-2012.

This decline was extremely promising; however, there is still much that needs to be done in Congo because its maternal mortality rates are still in line with other less-developed countries. The government acknowledged this and once again partnered with UNFPA in 2019 to further invest in a maternal mortality reduction program.

UNFPA Collaboration

This new program is focused on boosting healthcare infrastructure, facilities and services by utilizing innovative technologies. It is particularly focused on providing women in rural communities the best care possible. Some of the aspects of the program include providing solar power systems to ensure health facilities can function consistently as well as equipping midwives and doctors with portable ultrasounds and other monitoring devices to help handle high-risk pregnancies. Backpack kits filled with childbirth equipment are given to community health workers along with mobile phones to receive technical support if necessary.

While maternal mortality is a targeted intervention, the Republic of Congo has also done extensive work focusing on the healthcare system as a whole. This began in 2012 with the implementation of performance-based financing (PBF) with the help of Cordaid, an international development organization. PBF is a system in which healthcare providers are funded based on their performance and ability to meet specific objectives. It is utilized as a way to help introduce specific ways of purchasing that help health systems move towards universal health coverage.

PBF greatly improved healthcare in the Republic of Congo because it helps incentivize health workers to provide more and better care, such as assisting more births or providing more vaccinations. This, in turn, makes patients feel better and safer because their doctors are working hard, which increases the likelihood of people going in for consultations. More patients mean that rates for services will go down. Overall, with PBF, healthcare workers and facilities function better, and patients are happier and healthier.

While today, healthcare in The Republic of Congo is still facing challenges, it is vital to recognize how the government is investing and prioritizing the lives of its citizens. Creating change for the better is possible, and one must not forget to celebrate the victories.

– Paige Wallace

Photo: UNFPA

Countries with CholeraCholera is a disease of inequity that unduly sickens and kills the poorest and most vulnerable people – those without access to clean water and sanitation.” – Carissa F. Etienne, the Director of Pan American Health Organization.

Profuse vomiting, diarrhea and leg cramps, followed by intense dehydration and shock, are all symptoms of cholera. It is a highly contagious waterborne illness that can cause death within hours if left untreated. Cholera is mainly caused by drinking unsafe water, having poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene, all of which allow the toxigenic bacteria Vibrio Cholerae to infect a person’s intestine.

While cholera can be treated successfully through simple methods, such as replacing the lost fluid from excessive diarrhea, there are still many people around the globe struggling with the disease. There are 2.9 million cases and 95,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The countries that have the greatest risk of a cholera outbreak are the ones that are going through poverty, war and natural disasters. These factors cause poor sanitation and crowded conditions, which help the spread of the disease.

Yemen

Yemen is known for being one of the countries with the most Cholera cases. The number of cholera cases in Yemen has been increasing since January 2018; the cumulative reported cases from January 2018 to January 2020 is 1,262,722, with 1,543 deaths. The number of cases in Yemen marked 1,032,481 as of 2017, which was a sharp increase from the 15,751 cases and 164 deaths in 2016. On a positive note, the numbers showed a decrease by February 19, 2020; 56,220 cases were recorded, with 20 associated deaths.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The DRC is another country with a high number of Cholera cases. There were 30,304 suspected cases of cholera and 514 deaths in 2019. Although the number of 2019 cases was smaller than that of 2017 (56,190 cases and 1,190 deaths), the 2019 data showed an increase from 2018 (27,269 cases and 472 deaths). As of May 13, 2020, 10,533 cases and 147 deaths were reported; most of these reported cases originated from Lualaba regions, Haut Katanga and North and South Kivu.

Somalia

Somalia also stands as one of the countries with the most Cholera cases. From December 2017 to May 30, 2020, there were 13,528 suspected cholera cases and 67 associated deaths in Somalia. These reported cases are from regions of Hiran, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle and Banadir.

Other than the three countries listed above, there are many others that are also going through Cholera outbreaks. Uganda reported a new Cholera outbreak in the Moroto district in May 2020; a month later, 682 cases and 92 deaths have been reported. Burundi also declared a new cholera outbreak this past March; 70 new cases were reported.

Helping Cholera Outbreaks

Many non-profit organizations like UNICEF are constantly working towards helping these countries and many more. A good example of a country that has shown a great decrease in cholera cases following external aid is Haiti.

Haiti experienced the first large-scale outbreak of cholera with over 665,000 cases and 8,183 deaths. After a decade of efforts to fight against cholera, the country recently reported zero new cases of cholera for an entire year. An example of how UNICEF helped Haiti is by supporting the Government’s Plan for Cholera Elimination and focusing on rapid response to diarrhea cases. However, the country still needs to keep effective surveillance systems and remain as a cholera-free country for two more years to get validation from the World Health Organization (WHO) of the successful elimination of the disease.

Alison Choi
Photo: Flickr

Distrust Breeds EbolaMore than 1,100 people in Congo have died due to the recent Ebola outbreak. New treatment facilities, additional health personnel, improved vaccinations, and awareness campaigns should effectively be controlling the spread of Ebola. In spite of this, distrust is breeding Ebola as citizens reject available aid.

However, violence and distrust are increasing the risk of Ebola in Congo. This Ebola outbreak is the second worst outbreak in history and the solution is extremely complicated. Local militias in Congo have been burning down clinics and threatening physicians since January. Historically, residents have had to fear for their own safety and flee local armed extremist groups.

Distrust of Aid

Now, with the recent outbreak of Ebola, already vulnerable communities are experiencing a double layered threat of violence and disease. Reports show that the number of people infected with Ebola rises after violent conflicts. These areas are often unsafe for health workers, increasing the risk for Ebola to spread. Much of the violence pointed toward clinics and health workers stems from a widespread distrust of the government and foreign aid. This distrust is breeding Ebola, unnecessarily increasing the risk of contraction.

Despite these challenges, many international organizations are still trying to control the spread of Ebola in Congo and provide aid to those already infected. The World Health Organization reported 119 attacks on health workers. This has inspired international organizations to approach their methods for care differently. Aid workers are attempting to provide correct information to the population in Congo in order to debunk the propaganda being spread about the government and international aid. Often in public, health workers downplay their role to try and build trust within communities. The International Rescue Committee states, “Our staff has to lie about being doctors in order to treat people.”

Continued Support

The New Humanitarian is exploring why a deep distrust of government and foreign aid exists in Congo. Social media seems to be a large player in spreading misinformation. As such, 86 percent of adults surveyed in Beni and Butembo stated they do not believe that Ebola is real. Others believe Ebola is a method used by the government to destabilize certain areas. Similarly, many people fear treatment centers are making Ebola worse. Facebook and WhatsApp are major players in spreading this false information. The Ministry of Health has said they are working to monitor these pages and adapt local messages to make sure the truth is out there.

The control of Ebola is entirely possible through vaccines and prevention efforts. Instead, distrust is breeding Ebola in Congo as risk increases. Working to end this distrust and limit violence toward health workers through the spread of true information, is essential in stopping the spread of Ebola. The World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and other health agencies and organizations are working to provide more aid to those affected by Ebola, hoping to prevent spread beyond the region.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
On May 8, 2018, The Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) declared an outbreak of the virus disease Ebola in the North Kivu Province. The Democratic Republic of the Congo declared the epidemic over on July 24, 2018. This represented the ninth Ebola epidemic in this African country since 1976.

The Development of Ebola Epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The disease had been slowly building to the epidemic, even catastrophic levels. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the country had seen and been aware of the virus in the area since the April 4. The organization reports that, in April, a total of 44 people had been infected with the Ebola virus, which included 23 deaths.

However, in May, this number was disputed, as only 3 new cases were confirmed. The World Health Organization later narrowed the origins of this particular epidemic and found that it began in the northwestern area of Bikoro, which was the place where first cases were recorded on May 8. From this, The World Health Organization identified nearly 400 contacts of Ebola victims that are currently and continuously being followed up.

The History of Ebola Outbreaks in DRC

This isn’t the first Ebola outbreak the country has seen, however. Though Ebola outbreaks are uncommon, the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced multiple flare-ups of the virus- nine since 1976. One such flare-up happened in not so distant past, in 2017 to be exact, with five confirmed cases that were quickly dealt with. The fast response and eradication convinced many, including the World Health Organization and health officials that the 2018 Ebola epidemic in the country will be easily dealt with. Yet, this prediction proved to be optimistic and naive since, within a month of declaring the outbreak of an epidemic, two health officials were among those affected.

The Declaration of Epidemic

The World Health Organization was very quick to declare this year’s Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a global emergency to public health. Unlike the Ebola epidemic that ravaged Western Africa in 2014, The World Health Organization declared a state of emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo swiftly after seeing the number of cases increase.

Moreover, the organization made an immediate urgent request for $57 million to stop the spread of Ebola. In total, the money received amounted to $63 million, exceeding the appeal by $6 million. Among those who contributed to the funding towards ending this Ebola epidemic in the DRC was USAID who contributed with $5.3 million.

On July 24, 2018, Al Jazeera reported that the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been declared over. The virus had lasted a total of 10 weeks and had taken a total of 33 lives. Fortunately, the disease had remained contained, as Bikoro, the epicenter of the epidemic is a remote area of the country.

Although the people that were infected as a result of last Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo have completed their treatment, and have thus been declared cured, the health ministry of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as The World Health Organization are monitoring the situation in the country closely to ensure the virus does not spread.

Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr