Inflammation and stories on Democratic Republic of the Congo

DRC'S Energy Sector
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a population of 85 million. Of this number, only 9 percent have access to electricity. Decades of corruption and war are two reasons for poor electricity access and economic development in the Central African country. More than 95 percent of the total electricity comes from 2,542 MW (megawatts) of hydroelectric power. However, a potential capacity of up to 100,000 MW of hydroelectric power is in reach thanks to the Congo River. Investors were once disinterested in updating the Inga Dams located on the river. However, some are finally attempting to make use of the DRC’s massive hydroelectric potential. British firm Bboxx and Power Africa, an initiative that USAID launched, are working to expand the DRC’s energy sector to reach millions of Congolese.

The Massive Hydroelectric Power Potential of the Congo River

The rapids and many waterfalls provide the potential for expanding the Congo River’s hydroelectric power. About two million cubic feet of water flows from the river into the Atlantic Ocean every second during rainy seasons. This makes the river’s hydroelectric power a viable option to expand the lagging energy sector. Construction on the Inga I and Inga II dams on the Congo River finished in 1972 and 1982, respectively.

Construction on Inga III, however, has halted. Inga III’s establishment could help power 40 percent of Africa. Its hydroelectric power would equate to at least 40,000 MW, with some estimating more than 100,000 MW. The Grand Inga is the name of this $14 billion project. It has had a long history of delays due to foreign investors dropping out of the project for various reasons such as a lack of transparency from former DRC President Laurent-Désiré Kabila. If the development of the Grand Inga completed, the DRC could export power as well. The country could then become a major energy exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Completed Projects in the DRC

Zongo 2 is a hydroelectric plant on the Insiki River that feeds into the Congo River. Chinese company Sinohydro completed the dam in 2018 with the help of assistance through the Howard G. Buffet Foundation. It has a capacity of generating 150 MW and will generate $47 million of income annually. Currently, the DRC’s energy sector uses only about 2,500 MW of hydropower. However, projects such as Zongo 2 have proved that hydropower could benefit the country and surrounding countries in need of power. Zongo 2 might seem to be a small-scale project compared to the Inga III project. However, 150 MW could power more than 100,000 households.

Power Africa is an initiative to provide more than 30,000 MW of clean energy to 60 million homes and businesses. As part of its goal, Power Africa teamed with power company Virunga Sarl to expand hydropower facilities in the DRC. The Virunga region has eight potential hydropower sites. Two of these, the 13.8 MW Matebe and the .38 MW Mtwanga, are operational and located in North Kivu. The Mtwanga plant supports more than 400 jobs in the region. As of 2017, more than 4,000 customers were under Virunga Sarl’s grid. This included small- and medium-sized businesses, homes and social infrastructure. Virunga Sarl is also expanding to the Nyirigonga district of Goma, which has about 20,000 households without power.

The Potential of Congo’s Power Sector

In January 2020, British firm Bboxx signed a memorandum of understanding to bring clean energy to more than 10 million Congolese by 2024. Bboxx has already provided power to more than 200,000 households in the country. Power has transformed lives, granting access to services that were previously unreachable, such as health care and schooling. President Félix Tshisekedi said that his goal is to use “decentralized and renewable energy solutions as a foundation to improve the country’s electrification rate from 9 percent to 30 percent during my presidency.” For perspective, the length of the presidency in the DRC is five years, and Tshisekedi first took office in January 2019. The DRC’s energy sector is growing slowly, but the president’s massive goal could increase growth in the near future.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ebola Survivors
The Ebola epidemic that ravaged the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2018 claimed more than 2,250 lives. Doctors and nurses worked vigorously for months to treat patients and stop the spread of the deadly disease. Finally, in early March 2020, the DRC was able to announce that it had discharged its last Ebola patient. After the country’s lengthy battle with the virus, citizens are seeing that the end of the outbreak is finally within reach. With this new horizon in sight, here’s how Ebola survivors in Congo are giving back to their communities.

Interacting with Patients

There are more than 1,000 Ebola survivors in the DRC. These survivors have developed antibodies that can last up to a decade, allowing them protective immunity against Ebola. Essentially, if survivors come into contact with someone infected, they are not at risk of contracting the disease again.

This allows them to interact with sufferers who may feel isolated and alone during their treatment. Members of the Ebola Survivors Association were able to talk with and provide companionship to patients suffering from Ebola without making them feel alienated.

Spreading Awareness One Home at a Time

Members of the Ebola Survivors Association have been serving their community in Beni, a northeastern city in the DRC, by visiting homes to educate families on Ebola prevention strategies. One member, Gemima Landa, goes above and beyond as a way to thank the healthcare team that saved her life when she was infected.

Landa spends her week visiting countless neighborhoods in Beni. She shares her own story to enlighten families on how to stay healthy. She also makes regular visits to health centers to meet with mothers and pregnant women to explain to them how they have a crucial role in protecting their children against the deadly disease. Landa has been able to spread Ebola awareness and share life-saving information with hundreds of Congolese, and she isn’t the only survivor who’s making a difference.

Caring for Orphans of Ebola

With Ebola having taken so many lives across the country, it also left hundreds of children parentless as a result. Fortunately, survivors were quick to volunteer their time to step in and care for these orphans by providing love, attention and other necessities children desperately need during such a difficult time.

UNICEF also stepped in to help by partnering with survivors and opening nurseries close to Ebola treatment facilities. This is so that the caregivers would have a separate space to tend to the children. These nurseries provide daily screenings and checkups. Additionally, children who may have the disease can be cared for by survivors, who don’t have to risk being infected because they have developed an immunity.

There are now more Ebola survivors in the world than ever. The survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have proven how valuable their help can be to impacted communities. If volunteers continue to band together and share their experiences, the world could be on its way to a healthier, Ebola-free future.

Hadley West
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Progress
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has faced various issues surrounding health care in the past several decades and some have amounted to significant setbacks for the nation. However, the country has seen health care progress in the DRC in recent years and international organizations are looking forward to the future.

Improving Vaccines for Citizens

International partners have been able to pair with the government in the DRC to initiate this health care progress, and the country has been polio-free for four years as a result. The lack of infrastructure and geographical size of the DRC makes it particularly difficult to reach milestones in health care progress. The United States Agency for International Development has been a vital component of health care progress in the DRC serving over 12 million people spanning a multitude of different provinces. The organization has additionally remained committed to providing HIV/AIDS support in 21 concentrated zones. These focused zones are crucial for health care progress in this region.

In addition to the international organizations doing their part to help health care progress in the DRC, the country’s Ministry of Health has been working diligently in recent years to improve vaccines and their means of storage. Keeping vaccines in the appropriate cooling storage containers and fridges has proved especially difficult due to the DRC’s tropical climate. In a 2018 plan, the Ministry of Health aimed to provide immunizations to almost 220,000 children and improve vaccine storage conditions. Partnerships with outside organizations have helped to deliver 5,000 solar-powered fridges specifically intended for vaccine storage and they will distribute more later on.

Progress in Hospital Conditions

One of the first dependable and reliably functional hospitals opened in Kavumu through an initiative called First Light. This hospital garnered a brand new electronic medical records system to make keeping track of patient history astronomically easier than before. The hospital staff received tablets to mobilize the system and expedite the process of patient diagnosis and care. With this technology, the hospital is able to treat nearly three times more patients than it was able to without these resources – originally, doctors were only able to see approximately six or seven patients per week.

The hospital also implemented a motorcycle ambulance program so patients no longer have to walk or have others carry them to emergency care in order to tackle the issue of having no ambulance access in the city. This program utilizes motorcycle sidecars specifically to transport patients, which was a successful method that people originally used in South Africa.

The Future of Health Care in the DRC

The World Health Organization (WHO) has continuously been an important player in the health care progress of the DRC. It has partnered with non-governmental organizations to deliver medicines and various other resources to hospitals and clinics in areas where people have limited health care access. In the interest of continuing the progression of the country and establishing a functional health care system, WHO also remains dedicated to analyzing and quantifying statistics within the country that gives organizations clues on what they need to do next. These statistics are able to pinpoint issues in specific areas, therefore making it easier for government and international organizations to act, provide aid and implement programs for improvement. The continuation of this data collection will hopefully allow for more health care progress in the future.

There is still a lot to do in the DRC when it comes to health care. There are organizations and efforts dedicated to treating all of the diseases and epidemics that threaten the country’s current health care progress like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and more. Some organizations involved in the nation even specifically focus on the care of mothers and children or improving sanitation conditions.

It will be small, incremental changes over time that will lead to continued health care progress within the region. The country cannot fix everything at once, but the collective efforts and partnerships of international organizations and governmental entities have already dragged the country out of its most difficult struggles with health care and access to health resources. The continuation of these practices will ensure the building and sustainment of a functional and reliable health care system, therefore alleviating the worries of so many citizens within the DRC.

For now, health care progress in the DRC is on track and only time will tell how these small initiatives eventually reform and reshape the country’s health care system entirely.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Developing Countries With Natural Resources
As the planet continues to evolve from the devastating effects of global warming and overproduction of harmful wastes, natural resources necessary for people’s well being are becoming more scarce. With so few natural resources left, these commodities increase in value, thus making them more expensive to attain on the market. Although most of the world is struggling to gain access to such natural resources, some countries are fortunate enough to have a hidden reservoir of natural resources that they can use to their advantage. Here are the top three developing countries with natural resources.

3 Developing Countries With Natural Resources

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still battling many economic and civic issues that emerged out of a series of political conflicts in the 1990s, the country has benefited from its overabundance of natural resources. One can attribute much of its economic growth to the mass export of mineral deposits, those that are particularly in the province of Katanga. Minerals in the region include copper, zinc, cobalt, coal, silver, uranium and platinum. The Congo’s forest is also rich in fish and lumber, but as a result of the abuse of these resources, the government is working to preserve and protect these areas from deforestation. As a result of exporting these vital resources worldwide, especially copper and cobalt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was able to climb out of its economic recession in 2018. In 2018, the economy grew to 4.1 percent and has been on a steady incline ever since. Despite gaining wealth in exporting such resources, its account deficit widened from 2.9 percent of its GDP in 2017 to 3.9 percent of its GDP in 2018. This was due to the large increase in imports, but with sufficient government programs and community support, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be able to stabilize its economy in the future to gain more economic advantages from exporting its natural resources.
  2. Botswana: Since its independence from Britain in 1966, there were doubts about whether Botswana would be able to sustain itself as an independent country. As a landlocked country with a small agricultural population, droughts that hit the country in the 1960s took a huge toll on beef exports, which at the time was the country’s only means of export. However, its luck began to turn around in 1966 when it discovered the first batch of diamonds in Orapa. The capital expenditure on mines aided the start-up of other sectors, such as construction, financial services and transport. This led to rapid economic growth, lifting wealth prospects to overwhelming heights. As documented, from 1966 to 2014, Botswana’s GDP per capita grew at an average of 5.9 percent a year. These numbers were one of the highest rates of GDP per capita growth that the world saw during that period. A large contributor to the rapid expansion of Botswana’s economy was the export of diamonds. Of course, as a developing country, Botswana still has challenges to overcome. Youth unemployment is as high as 35 percent and more than 13 percent of the population is living off of just $1.90 a day. There are also concerns that its economy has become too reliant on its diamond business. Botswana, as always, has been working to relieve these issues.
  3. Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is home to about one-fifth of the world’s petroleum reserves. The petroleum industry takes up approximately 80 percent of its budget revenues, 90 percent of export earnings and 45 percent of the country’s GDP. In addition to the already existing oil fields, Saudi Arabia discovered the Arsan, the AsSayd, the Namlan and the Qamran oilfields along with the Jalamid gas fields in 2010, adding to its economic prosperity. Additionally, Saudia Arabia also has large reserves of a variety of metals including iron, lead, gold and copper. One company called Ma’aden, which has two subsidiaries called Ma’aden Gold and Base Metals Co., has operated five gold mines in Saudi Arabia since 1988 and has produced more than 4 million ounces of gold. To gain further investment from these profitable natural resources, Saudia Arabia joined the WTO in 2005, constructed six economically-driven cities in its country and developed social and infrastructural projects between 2010 and 2014 to promote economic prosperity. In terms of maintaining its position as perhaps the world’s leading petroleum producer and exporter, it will be able to do just that for many years to come. However, internal conflict and poverty are issues that Saudi Arabia still faces, so much work is still necessary to bring its country into an era of peace and stability.

Overall, developing countries do, to some degree, gain substantial benefits from exporting their natural resources for profit. However, circumstances must align in order for the export of natural resources to benefit them, because the same blessing can very well turn into a negative consequence and be more damaging to their economies.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Dominican RepublicSituated in the Caribbean and sharing the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, the Dominican Republic is home to nearly 11 million inhabitants. While health challenges persist, there have been many positive signs of progress in the past few decades in health care, funding, implementation and education that have resulted in a trend of higher life expectancy every year. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in the Dominican Republic.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Dominican Republic

  1. Life expectancy in the Dominican Republic has steadily increased over time. The average life expectancy will increase 6.99 percent from 2000 to 2020 according to projections by the U.N. Life expectancy from the time of birth in the country is currently 74.15 years of age.
  2. According to 2018 data collected by the World Health Organization, the leading causes of death in the Dominican Republic are coronary heart disease (19.85 percent), stroke (10.65 percent), prostate cancer (3.57 percent), HIV/AIDS-related illnesses (5.45 percent) and violence (5.51 percent).
  3. Infant mortality rates have dropped dramatically. Between 1990 and 2015, the infant mortality rate in the Dominican Republic fell by 50.3 percent due to expanded health coverage and immunization campaigns. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified a priority gap for infant mortality rates of children under age 5 and maternal mortality. Infant mortality rates also decreased by 2.32 percent from 2019 to 2020.
  4. An increasing number of people are covered by health insurance. Between 2011 and 2015, 22 percent more of the population was covered by government-provided health insurance. In spite of higher out-of-pocket expenditures and gaps in services for a large portion of the population, the country is on track to universal coverage.
  5. There is greater access to safe drinking water. National and international groups developed programs in the past five years to improve coverage of clean and safe drinking water in the Dominican Republic, including the Drinking Water Monitoring System in 2015, which expanded monitoring in five provinces. On average, 86.8 percent of homes (urban and rural) have an improved water source.
  6. Natural disasters are being mitigated by better risk management systems. Because of its location, the Dominican Republic is ranked among the top 10 countries experiencing extreme weather due to hurricanes, tropical storms and seismic risk along tectonic plates. Since 2013, the incorporation of “disaster risk reduction” into laws and government systems has made the country a safer place to live, including Law 147-02 on risk management and the National Plan for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management.
  7. Dominicans are more educated than ever before. As of 2016, the Dominican Republic had a literacy rate of 93.78 percent, up 1.79 percent from 2015. The mean number of years of schooling in 1990 was five. In 2014, it was recorded at 7.7 years.
  8. Greater attention is being placed on family planning and contraceptives. Around 99 percent of pregnant women in 2013 received prenatal care by a medical professional and 72 percent of partnered women used some form of contraception. Government resources combat adolescent pregnancies and promote family planning for women and couples. U.N. projections show the fertility rate (births per woman) declined 1.07 percent between 2019 and 2020, in line with yearly trends.
  9. Health services have been expanded to cover HIV treatment and prevention. Programs through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has offered assistance and services to the Dominican Ministry of Health for the past few decades to help prevent the transmission of HIV and offer treatment to those living with HIV. Between 2010 and 2014, the country increased antiretroviral coverage for populations living with HIV from 51 percent to 63 percent.
  10. Death by violence has declined over the past decade. Figures from the World Bank show that homicide rates decreased by 12.72 percent from 2014 to 2016 in the Dominic Republic. Since 2014, death by violence or other external causes has become a major concern, sparking the creation of public initiatives such as the Public Safety 9-1-1 Emergency Systems launched in Santo Domingo.

Considerable progress in life expectancy and quality of life have been made in the Dominican Republic in spite of new and old challenges to health and wellbeing. Data shows that in all these areas, overall improvements on the part of the Dominican government, as well as international organizations, have contributed to a steady improvement of living conditions.

– Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country located in Central Africa, has been the victim of oppression, colonization and enslavement by European nations dating back to the year 1890. Violence and war continued for decades as a result. The Central African country currently lacks some essential sanitation resources, which has led to the spread of diseases such as cholera within the nation. Part of this is because half of the people of the DRC receive improved drinking water from wells and public standpipes. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in the DRC.

10 Facts About Sanitation in the DRC

  1. In 2018, only 29 percent of people in the DRC had access to basic sanitation services. There is 42 percent of people in the DRC currently using unimproved methods of sanitation. This includes pit latrines and bucket latrines.
  2. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is an indisputable crisis in the availability of clean and pure drinking water. UNICEF reports that despite the fact that 50 percent of Africa’s water reserves exist there, there are still millions of people living without pure drinking water. In fact, more than half the population of the DRC lacks clean drinking water.
  3. Many people and schoolchildren have benefitted from the national program, Healthy School and Village. This national program aims to provide clean drinking water to villages in Africa to prevent diarrheal diseases. Waterborne diseases, like cholera, claim the lives of thousands of people of the DRC per year. UNICEF reports that as many as 7 million people and 983,000 schoolchildren have seen an improvement in their quality of life from this program since 2008.
  4. Women in the DRC and other sub-Saharan African countries are bearing the burden of having to deliver clean drinking water to their families. Women and girls in the developing world, such as the DRC, spend up to 90 percent of their valuable time collecting water. The women and girls in the DRC rarely finish their schooling due to this need for water. In the DRC, the participation of boys in the secondary school system has been 25 percent higher than girls since 2009.
  5. In 2011, a program called We Are Water successfully raised 20,000 euros in an effort to give accessible drinking water to the DRC. The program estimates that with the funds raised, it will be able to minimize the cholera epidemic. It is giving 20,000 people from 30 different villages clean water to drink and maintain their hygiene. This will only increase the efforts for creating better sanitation in the DRC.
  6. The U.N. Refugee Agency’s Cash for Shelter project has given funds to people in the DRC so they may build their own homes with real functioning toilets. Most people can only dream of owning a toilet because they are living on a mere $2 a day. Through this program, they do not have to construct makeshift pit latrines. They can now create a sense of security and ownership for themselves. Since its inception in 2016, the UNHCR’s cash-based interventions have reached more than 20 million people.
  7. There are many initiatives that bring clean drinking water to the people of the DRC like Concern Worldwide. It has provided the village of Mulombwa with its very own water pipe, which has revitalized the village in so many ways. Throughout its 50 years, this program has reached 24.2 million people in 23 different countries.
  8. The proportion of people drinking surface water, which includes contaminated lakes and rivers, was 11 percent, as of December 2018. The use of unimproved water sources like surface water is nearly universal in rural areas, according to the World Bank. Urban areas have 81 percent access to improved water sources, while it is as low as 31 percent in rural areas.
  9. According to the World Bank, access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene services is low, improving only by 3 percent. In urban areas, however, access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is much higher.
  10. There is a trend of constant outbreaks of cholera in various regions of the DRC due to contaminated drinking water. The infection can lead to severe dehydration and diarrhea which, if people leave unchecked, could lead to death. From November 2015 to February 2018, there were 1,065 cases of cholera in the capital Kinshasa alone, according to the World Health Organization. Of these 1,065 cases, there were 43 confirmed deaths.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has seen little improvement in water quality and sanitation services. Thankfully, people and organizations are consistently working on improving everyday life for the people of the DRC. Whether it be funding Congolese families to have a functioning toilet in their homes or building a protected well for an entire village, there are several ways these organizations can make an impact

William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Aftermath of Ebola
An Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has infected 250,000 people and has nearly killed 1,700 people. The outbreak occurred in August 2018. The New York Times reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this outbreak a global health emergency.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a fatal disease that spreads through contact with a person with the Ebola virus. According to the CDC, “It spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD.” One can also contract it through direct contact with blood and sexual contact. Symptoms usually occur within two to 21 days from the time a person contracts the virus.

The disease spread throughout the Congo and proceeded to enter countries such as Goma and those near Rwanda. This outbreak posed a threat to surrounding countries and the overall idea of public health.

Health care workers and medical team members in those areas are also becoming affected. According to data that the Ebola Response Committee collected, 157 workers have suffered Ebola and 41 of them have died. This means that 5 percent of the people suffering from Ebola in the Congo were health workers.

Since these outbreaks have been happening recently, officials are stepping in to launch infection control. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is receiving help from different global organizations in order to implement new infection prevention and control (IPC) training.

One of those training sessions consists of preparing local nurses, doctors and health workers on how to confront this disease. This is important because most of the local workers do not know how to detect the disease and safely isolate patients.

Efforts to Treat and Prevent Ebola

Weeks during and after the outbreak, WHO began to work with community officials to advocate for treatment for patients. This work consisted of WHO teaching and encouraging people in the affected community to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and to seek treatment immediately. WHO also connected with youth leaders and community representatives in order to collaborate with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) about responding to the outbreak.

Other organizations such as Save the Children have been responding as well. Save the Children has been working with different organizations in the DRC to ensure they know how to protect themselves. The organization is also working with WHO on the ground to prevent outbreaks from spreading any further. Save the Children and WHO are doing this to reduce the damage the outbreak has already caused.

Save the Children sent out emergency health units to respond to the disease crisis, as well as partnering with the Congolese government on the ground to support its health facilities. It has trained many health workers and community leaders on how to address Ebola in their communities. It also built 15 Ebola triage points that will assist in detecting and preventing Ebola cases among children.

Many different initiatives within these organizations are taking place to help advocate for this crisis and bring in as much medical treatment as they can. As Ebola continues to infest the DRC, the surrounding countries and their poor communities, they will be in a continued state of a global health emergency.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Is BackA mother and her daughter traveled more than 1,000 miles from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help to save her child’s life. The nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of Ebola on August 29, 2019. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away. Ebola is back in Africa. The situation is grim, but there are organizations trying to contain the virus.

Ebola in the DRC

There have been a total of 25 outbreaks in Africa since the first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa with a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than before. This disease has surfaced in the North Kivu Province. It is considered to be the second-largest outbreak in history after the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people.

The majority of EVD cases are coming from one of the 29 health zones located in Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. Out of the 3,054 EVD cases that were reported in September 2019, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports. Overall, 2,052 of those people died. Children have made up about 28 percent of probable and confirmed cases. Health care workers comprised around 5 percent.

Expanding Outside of the DRC

This 2019 case is different because the country is undergoing conflict and there are a lot of refugees fleeing to different parts of the region. The DRC’s political instability, random acts of violence and infrastructure limitations have also contributed to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak. As of June 2019, the disease started to expand into Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands. They strengthened border controls and “banned public gatherings” in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

Vaccinating This Outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated. Out of the five Congolese who made contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups” and another 8,000 were vaccinated against Ebola due to the prevalence in the risk of certain areas in the country. Overall, 200,000 people in DRC and medical workers in neighboring countries have been vaccinated against EVD.

With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to completely protect people from this disease. However, an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Another option to combat this virus is a therapeutic treatment that has shown immense results in the early stages of the virus.

WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network

WHO is doing everything it can to prevent the international spread of this disease. It had already implemented the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD. This operation included many different concepts such as disease surveillance. Its designated procedures include notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, increasing risk assessments, considering whether or not an event is a public health emergency and strategizing international responses.

WHO partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper technologies and skills are present in order to help everyone that is in need. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that “use human and technical resources” to regularly warn one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to international outbreaks. WHO and GOARN have been working in at least 40 different countries with 400 specialists. Together, they have provided aid to more than 50 events around the world.

Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

Fight Disease in the DRC
With 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1,100 precious metals and minerals, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has quickly established itself as a large exporter in the lucrative diamond industry. Despite this, the DRC ranks 176th out of 189 nations on the UN’s Human Development Index and over 60 percent of the 77 million DRC residents live on less than $2 a day. Internal and external war, coupled with political inefficacy and economic exploitation, has hindered the country’s ability to combat poverty and improve health outcomes. Listed below are some of the most deadly diseases that are currently affecting individuals in the DRC and the different strategies that governments and NGOs have taken to fight disease in the DRC.

3 Deadly Diseases Currently Affecting Individuals in the DRC

  1. Malaria

The DRC has the second-highest number of malaria cases in the world, reporting 15.3 million of the WHO-estimated 219 million malaria cases in 2017. Of the more than 400 Congolese children that die every day, almost half of them die due to malaria, with 19 percent of fatalities under 5 years attributed to the disease. However, some are making to reduce malaria’s negative impact.  For example, the distribution of nearly 40 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets, or ITNs, has helped lower the incidence rate by 40 percent since 2010, with a 34 percent decrease in the mortality rate for children under 5. The DRC government procured and distributed the nets with international partners such as the Department for International Development, Global Fund and World Bank. In addition, the President’s Malaria Initiative, a program implemented in 2005 by President Bush and carried out by USAID, has distributed more than 17 million nets. UNICEF has also been a major contributor in the efforts to fight malaria and recently distributed 3 million ITNs in the DRC’s Kasaï Province. However, the country requires more work, as malaria remains its most frequent cause of death.

  1. HIV/AIDS

Among its efforts to fight disease in the DRC, the country has made significant progress recently in its fight against HIV/AIDS. As a cause of death, it has decreased significantly since 2007, and since 2010, there are 39 percent fewer total HIV infections.

This particular case illuminates the potential positive impact of American foreign aid. The DRC Ministry of Health started a partnership with the CDC in 2002, combining efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR, signed into U.S. law in 2003 to combat AIDS worldwide, has invested over $512 million since 2004, which has helped to fund antiretroviral treatment for 159,776 people. In 2017, it funded the provision of HIV testing services for 1.2 million people.

The country is also addressing mother-to-child transmissions. In the DRC, approximately 15 to 20 percent of mothers with HIV pass the virus onto their child. The strategy to end mother-to-child transmissions involves expanding coverage for HIV-positive pregnant women, diagnosing infants with HIV earlier and preventing new infections via antiretroviral drug treatment. UNAID, The Global Fund and the DRC Ministry of Health have undertaken significant work to accomplish these objectives and their efforts have resulted in the coverage of 70 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women.  However, much work remains to cover the remaining 30 percent of pregnant HIV-positive women.

Overall, there is still a lot of necessary work to undergo in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the DRC and around the world.  In total, UNAIDS estimated that HIV/AIDS was the cause of 17,000 deaths in the DRC in 2018.  While this is a decrease from previous years, it shows that the DRC still has a long way to go in order to fully control the spread of the disease.  Additionally, there must be more global funding. The U.N. announced on July 2019 that annual global funding for fighting HIV/AIDS decreased in 2018 by almost $1 billion.

  1. Ebola

Since 2018, the DRC has undergone one of the world’s largest Ebola outbreaks. On July 17, 2019, WHO declared the outbreak an international health emergency. Since August 2018, more than 2,500 cases have occurred, with over 1,800 deaths.

However, the country is making efforts to prevent the transmission and spread of Ebola in the DRC.  Recently, more than 110,000 Congolese received an experimental Ebola vaccine from Merck & Co. The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV, and studies have shown the vaccine to have a 97.5 percent efficacy rate.  This vaccine provides hope that people will be able to control Ebola breakouts in the near future.

While there have been attempts to fight disease in the DRC in recent years, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, each disease remains a major issue. In the coming years, the country must continue its efforts.

– Drew Mekhail
Photo: Flickr

Ways to Fight Ebola in the DRCThe Democratic Repulic of the Congo (DRC) has been ravaged by violence and a deadly Ebola epidemic. Thousands have died, however, there may be hope on the horizon. A vaccine and cure for the terrible virus may soon end the years of pain and suffering caused by Ebola. Here are some ways to fight Ebola in the DRC.

Ebola in the DRC

The Congo has dealt with Ebola outbreaks before and managed to contain them before they grew out of control. The current outbreak, however, is proving to be difficult to contain as there have been more than 2,500 cases. Almost 1,800 people have died and the virus is spreading fast. With cases having been confirmed in neighboring Uganda, the World Health Organization says that there is a high risk that Ebola could spread into Rwanda and South Sudan as well. 

Challenges

The main obstacles to containment are a mistrust of doctors and violent conflict. Unfortunately, violent conflicts spill over into clinics where doctors are attacked for providing life-saving treatments for Ebola patients. In addition, a recent study found that almost 25 percent of Congolese people think Ebola is fake due to a lack of trust and the spread of misinformation. Some people even believe that Ebola is a money-making scheme and a way to suppress voters. Unfortunately, distrust means many Congolese avoid formal health care and decline vaccines.

Potential Cure

Scientists have been trialing two new antibody-based treatments. The success of these two treatments has been so great that Ebola may no longer be considered incurable. The two drugs, REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, have both increased survival rates to around 90 percent. REGN-EB3 is a drug invented by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron. mAb-114 is an antibody that was drawn from the blood of an Ebola survivor.

Recently, both treatments were involved in a study to test their effectiveness in comparison with the current drug Zmapp that has a mortality rate of 49 percent. The two new drugs, REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, were both found to have mortality rates under 35 percent. Even more encouraging, the mortality rates for the two drugs drops to below 15 percent when patients are treated as soon as they are infected. A major obstacle in the fight to control the epidemic is that patients wait a long time to seek medical attention. The new more effective treatments could convince people to seek help earlier since their mortality rates are better than the older treatments.

Possible Vaccine

American pharmaceutical company Merck has created an experimental vaccine that has proven to be very effective. Merck uses ring vaccination to vaccinate those who have come in contact with an Ebola patient. Using this method, almost 200,000 people in the DRC and its neighboring countries no longer have to worry about contracting Ebola. The vaccine has given 97 percent protection for those who have taken it. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that it will fund Merck’s vaccine production, with a $23 million investment signaling good news in the fight to contain (and prevent) Ebola in the DRC.

– Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr