Traditional healers behind high number of child Ebola deaths in DRC
An unprecedented number of children are dying from Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) due to traditional healers, the health ministry said on Sunday, as the death toll from the disease reached 170.
The rate of new cases in eastern Congo has accelerated in recent weeks. An emergency World Health Organization committee said earlier this month that the outbreak was likely to worsen significantly unless the response was stepped up.
But the impact on children in Beni, a town in North Kivu province near the border with Uganda that has emerged as the outbreak's new epicenter, has been felt acutely.
"There is an abnormally high number of children who have contracted and died of Ebola in Beni. Normally, in every Ebola epidemic, children are not as affected,” a spokeswoman for the health ministry, Jessica Ilunga, told Reuters.
Many children affected by an unrelated malaria outbreak near Beni are thought to have contracted Ebola at clinics run by traditional healers who have also treated Ebola patients.
"The child who enters a traditional healer's clinic with malaria comes out with Ebola and dies several days later," said Ilunga. "Traditional healers use the same tools to treat everyone."
Of 120 confirmed Ebola cases in Beni, at least 30 are under 10 years old, and 27 of them have died, according to health ministry data.
The Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC has so far claimed 170 lives with 267 recorded cases, the health ministry said on Sunday.
Late on Saturday, it had confirmed nine new cases, the biggest one-day day jump since the outbreak was declared on August 1.
Congolese authorities said in mid-October that they were facing a "second wave" of the outbreak.
It is the 10th Ebola outbreak in DR Congo since the disease was first detected there in 1976.
(Top picture: A Congolese health worker administers the Ebola vaccine to a boy in the village of Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo, August 18, 2018. /VCG Photo)