A local radio host, involved in the fight against Ebola, was murdered in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on the eve of the authorities’ introduction of a new vaccine against the disease. epidemic in areas where the virus has not been reported.
« Around 7:00 pm on Saturday, unidentified bandits raided an Ebola response in Lwemba, killed him, wounded his wife and burned down his house, » General Robert Yav told AFP. Commander of the Congolese Armed Forces in Mambasa, Ituri Province (North-East).
Professor Steve Ahuka, national coordinator of the Ebola response, also confirmed that a community worker involved in the fight in Lwemba has been killed.
The victim, 35-year-old Papy Mumbere Mahamba, was hosting a program about Ebola on Lwemba community radio. In the DRC, local radios remain one of the best ways to inform people.
« Our colleague Papy Mumbere Mahamba was murdered at his home by unidentified people with knives (…) He was returning from the radio where he hosted a show on the fight against Ebola, » said Jacques Kamwina, a radio journalist Lwemba.
The motives of the assassination remain for the moment unknown.
The DRC is fighting against an Ebola epidemic declared on August 1, 2018. It affects the remote and conflict areas of the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.
The epidemic has so far killed 2,185 people out of 3,274 cases, according to the latest official figures.
Efforts to contain the disease have been hampered by armed violence, as well as by attacks on health workers fighting Ebola in a population often mistrustful of outsiders and superstition.
In April, a Cameroon epidemiologist from the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung was killed in Butembo (North Kivu) in a militia attack on an Ebola team. At least one nurse and one policeman have also been killed in similar circumstances since the beginning of the epidemic.
Several members of the response teams were assaulted or injured by residents during burials of Ebola victims. Relatives, traditionally used to touching the dead, often refuse to be deprived of this custom. Since Ebola is transmitted through body fluids, health teams are careful to avoid any contamination by taking care of funerals.
In September, about 20 Ebola health worker homes were set on fire by militias in the Mambasa area.
A second vaccine
The current Ebola outbreak is the tenth highest on Congolese soil since 1976 and the second worst in history after the one that killed some 11,000 people in West Africa in 2014.
On Saturday, the authorities announced that they have received a first batch of 11,000 doses of a second Ebola vaccine from Belgium.
This second vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson (administered in two doses 56 days apart), should be introduced in mid-November in areas where the virus is absent. The strategy aims to « immunize the largest number of the population, » according to the Ministry of Health.
« This 2nd vaccine, will be given to any volunteer and eligible in the regions, where will be organized these vaccinations, » says the ministry.
It will be used in addition to the 1st Ebola vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV-GF, manufactured by the US Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD) laboratory, which uses the « belt strategy » in Ebola-infected areas; to immunize people who may have been in contact with the infected inhabitants.
Since vaccination began on August 8, 2018, 246,310 people have been vaccinated.