Con­golese flee to Uganda af­ter vote, rais­ing Ebola fears

Simcoe Reformer - - SPORTS - Rod­ney Muhu­muza

KAM PALA, Uganda — Hun­dreds of refugees have crossed into Uganda from Congo in the days since that coun­try’s trou­bled pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, a Red Cross of­fi­cial said Wed­nes­day, height­en­ing con­cerns about the pos­si­ble cross­bor­der spread of Ebola. Sep­a­rately, the head of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said he has asked the sup­plier of an ex­per­i­men­tal vac­cine to pro­duce more of it.

The refugee in­flux started the day af­ter Sun­day’s vote and since then dozens of peo­ple have been ar­riv­ing at a time, said Irene Nakasi­ita, a spokes­woman for the Red Cross in Uganda.

Some Con­golese try­ing to cross the bor­der were forced back af­ter re­sist­ing the ef­forts of Ugan­dan health of­fi­cials screen­ing peo­ple for Ebola, she said.

Congo’s gov­ern­ment cited the Ebola out­break in the coun­try’s north­east for a con­tentious de­ci­sion to bar an es­ti­mated 1 mil­lion vot­ers from the elec­tion. Protests fol­lowed, with some peo­ple van­dal­iz­ing Ebola re­sponse fa­cil­i­ties and some aid groups forced to sus­pend work for days.

The in­ter­net has been cut off in Congo this week in an ap­par­ent ef­fort by the gov­ern­ment to pre­vent so­cial me­dia spec­u­la­tion about the re­sults, while the op­po­si­tion and ob­servers have re­ported mul­ti­ple prob­lems with the elec­tion.

The in­ter­net out­age also has af­fected Ebola re­sponse ef­forts, with Congo’s health min­istry on Wed­nes­day cit­ing “tech­ni­cal prob­lems” for the de­lay in send­ing its daily up­date on the out­break.

More than 600 Ebola cases have been re­ported, with more than 360 con­firmed deaths since Au­gust. The out­break is the sec­ond-dead­li­est in his­tory.

The out­break has been dif­fi­cult to con­trol amid armed vi­o­lence and com­mu­nity protests, and the vi­o­lence has in­creased “in in­ten­sity and fre­quency,” the head of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said Wed­nes­day.

And yet “there is rea­son to be hope­ful” the out­break will be brought un­der con­trol as soon as pos­si­ble, Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus said in the Ugan­dan cap­i­tal, Kam­pala. He spent New Year’s Day in Congo.

Amid the elec­tion-re­lated protests last week, Te­dros warned that “pro­longed in­se­cu­rity” in Congo could lead to a rise in new Ebola cases.

Some of the Ebola cases in this out­break have been re­ported close to the heav­ily trav­elled bor­der with Uganda. For months, Ugan­dan of­fi­cials have been sub­ject­ing all pass­ing through of­fi­cial bor­der posts to manda­tory Ebola screen­ing.

The Ebola virus is spread through di­rect con­tact with the flu­ids of an in­fected per­son.

More than 50,000 peo­ple have re­ceived an ex­per­i­men­tal vac­cine. Te­dros said there were enough doses of the vac­cine avail­able “but at the same time we have al­ready re­quested the sup­plier to pro­duce more.”

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