The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has found that those areas struck by Ebola are now facing a new wave of deterioration – this time centred around declining mental health, access to vital healthcare stopping and women and girls facing brutal violence. This impact of the outbreak, merged with the current coronavirus pandemic, has led the organisation to issue a stark demand for aid agencies and donors to support the nations who need it most. For nearly two years, the DRC has been starved as it battled the Ebola crisis, which has so far claimed more than 2,000 deaths from just under 3,500 reported cases.
Despite the IRC reporting the outbreak has now come to an end, it is how the DRC considers handling the after-affects alongside the COVID-19 pandemic that is now the nation’s biggest headache.
Figures from the IRC say that the number of people in need in Ebola-affected provinces has risen by at least 250 percent since the start of the outbreak.
In human terms, this is an increase from 1.2 million people to 4.3 million.
Borry Jatta, Ebola Response Director at IRC, said despite being “proud to have contributed to a successful response to end the Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC” the organisation was “alarmed” by the rising number of increased vulnerability within the area’s citizens.
The expert added: “DRC is dealing with a compounded emergency, including a new Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka as well as outbreaks of cholera and measles, which continue to cost thousands of lives.
“Initial research indicates that COVID-19, which continues to spread with nearly 6,000 cases, could compound these devastating consequences for the most vulnerable populations.
“The people of eastern DRC have been living in a humanitarian crisis for decades, with nearly 16 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, more than half of them children. More than 15 million people are facing food insecurity, and more than 5.5 million people have been displaced.
“The direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 will affect close to three million additional people, bringing the total number of people in need to more than 19 million. It is crucial that lessons are learned and applied from the recent outbreak, and that we are mindful of both the immediate impacts of disease and the indirect impacts outbreaks have on livelihoods, safety, and health, especially for those in humanitarian settings.
“Those surveyed reported deteriorating mental health, reduced access to healthcare and major income losses. Recovery will need more than interventions aimed at improving access to hygiene and health. We also need an increase in economic recovery, protection for women and girls, mental health support and community engagement.”
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During the two year period, more people died from measles than Ebola.
Mr Jatta concluded: “The international community, agencies on the ground and the government must increase support to control these disease outbreaks, as well as continue to reach those in urgent need of humanitarian assistance beyond the outbreak.
“With increased funding and support, the DRC government, the IRC, and our partners, can scale up mitigation efforts to tackle all outbreaks, and deliver life-saving aid to those who need it most.”