Ebola, Measles, and now the fear of coronavirus blights the Democratic Republic of Congo

Ebola, Measles, and now the fear of coronavirus blights the Democratic Republic of Congo

Kanako Itamae and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is blighted by ethnic conflicts and an array of different militias, seeking to control the abundant natural riches of this nation. On top of this, many people have died in recent times from a brutal measles epidemic and Ebola. Therefore, the fear now is that coronavirus (Covid-19) will also stalk a land that suffers from enormous poverty.

It is known that at least 6,400 people have perished from measles since the epidemic began in early 2019. The number of deaths is probably higher given the remoteness of the DRC. Hence, so much suffering in countless communities.

The measles epidemic is known to have infected over 340,000 people throughout the DRC. Ebola also began to ravage eastern parts of the DRC from the middle of 2018. Since this period, 2,276 people have died from Ebola. Yet, in recent times, it appeared that the Ebola crisis had been defeated. However, two recent deaths – and another girl showing signs of Ebola – means that the menace remains.

Currently, the coronavirus crisis isn’t overwhelming any part of Africa but the nature of this virus can change rapidly. After all, only a few months ago Europe was watching events unfolding in China from a distance. Then suddenly coronavirus entered Europe and in a short period over 100,000 perished on this continent – with more deaths set to continue.

The fear is that underdeveloped nations will face mass deaths if coronavirus enters rapidly. This is despite the age ratio of elderly citizens being much lower than in European nations. Of course, the coronavirus is also killing younger people below the age of 60 years. Therefore, if the coronavirus can devastate parts of Europe and the United States, the fear is that African nations will face huge devastation if it enters the continent to the same degree.

Not surprisingly, the fear of coronavirus is pervasive in the DRC because of the ongoing measles epidemic and the Ebola factor. Thus, while the majority of coronavirus cases have been reported in the environs of Kinshasa, the fear is that it could spread. This fact is worrying people involved in the health care sector, despite the current number of coronavirus cases being in the low hundreds.

Vincent Sodjinou, the World Health Organization head of the measles response, sums up the problems facing the DRC. He pointedly said, “It’s obvious the priority will be given to COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months.”

He continued, “The priority [before] was on Ebola, and it wasn’t easy to mobilize funds… For measles, it was difficult for us to fight. It was a daily fight.”

Therefore, the DRC is already facing an uphill struggle with many complex health issues. On top of this, rampant poverty, various militias butchering, and ethnic tensions in parts of the country. Hence, the coronavirus threatens to add a new devastating dimension to a country that continues to suffer – despite being so rich in natural resources.

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