The Democratic Republic of Congo is struggling to cope with its 10th outbreak of Ebola since 1976. The roots of the problem go deep, and there are no quick fixes, but a long-term plan to cope with the disease must be found
Since last August, a deadly Ebola outbreak has raged through the Ituri and North Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), claiming over 1,700 lives. Having decimated Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016, killing over 11,300 people and sparking global panic and billions in losses, the return of the highly contagious virus is dismaying but sadly unsurprising.
The latest epidemic is the 10th outbreak the country has faced since 1976, where it thrives off desperately poor communities beset by extreme poverty, absent central authority and armed conflict. The current outbreak appears to be more serious still. In a bid to mobilise resources, the World Health Organisation announced in July that the current outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
In response, the World Bank announced that it is mobilising up to $300m in grants and credits to scale up a global response. The institution already supports health clinics, treatment centres and healthcare workers. More support is expected to be delivered following talks between the DRC government and a consortium of global partners.
While critical to saving lives, emergency support of this kind can only offer short-term respite. The roots of the DRC's ill-preparedness lie much deeper. Large parts of the affected provinces are beyond the effective control of a weak central government and lack both security and health systems. By October 2018, over 51% of the DRC's violent events and protests in that year had taken place in North Kivu, a disproportionately high number. The crisis response in the province has been impeded by the activity of armed groups, and residents' lack of trust in the...