Toronto, February 13: Even as the latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has claimed 500 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, another horrific report has emerged from the African country. An Ebola vaccination programme by the World Health Organisation has seen frontline workers accused of demanding sexual favours from women in exchange for administering the vaccine.
The experimental vaccine deployed in DR Congo to tackle the latest Ebola outbreak has been described by the WHO as “highly, highly efficacious.” However, health workers tasked with vaccinating those at risk are being accused of exploiting women and young girls. According to The Guardian, studies have revealed concerns by 'multiple respondents' that some people are asking for sexual favours in return for Ebola treatments - including vaccinations. These shocking claims came to light when a high-level task force met in the city of Beni to analyse the ongoing vaccination programme.
These reports have created mistrust in the minds of people in DR Congo against health workers which is in turn hampering efforts to stem the spread of the virus which has spread rapidly since the first reported outbreak in August 2018. 'In total, there have been 502 deaths and 271 people cured,' said a health ministry bulletin, reporting on the outbreak in the east of the country. Read: After Ebola Outbreak Confirmed in DRC, WHO Planning For 'Worst Case Scenario'
Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga said that, for the first time, a vaccination programme had protected 76,425 people and prevented 'thousands' of deaths. 'I believe we have prevented the spread of the epidemic in the big cities' in the region, he said. 'The teams also managed to contain its the spread of the epidemic to neighbouring countries,' he added. The current toll represents the second largest outbreak of Ebola in recorded history.
However, the threat still exists of Ebola spreading to the neighbouring countries of Uganda and Rwanda as the first outbreak of the disease was reported from the North Kivu region of DR Congo which borders these countries. The aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported on Twitter that there had been a surge in cases since January 15. Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan, further north, were all now on alert, it added.