Attempts to end the second worst Ebola outbreak on record are being hampered by “political games” and distrust of outsiders in two towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a senior World Health Organization official said on Monday.
The epidemic has moved through northeastern Congo, killing 1,117 people since mid-2018. Rapid international response with an effective vaccine has managed to stop the spread in a string of towns, including Beni, Kyondo, Komanda, Tchomia, Mabalako, Mandima and Kayna, WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan said.
But in two towns, Butembo and Katwa, there has been persistent infection and reinfection, Ryan told an audience at Geneva’s Graduate Institute.
“They see (DRC capital) Kinshasa as being as far away as New York. Anyone from more than 5 miles down the road, or maybe sometimes 500 metres, is an outsider,” he said.
“They are very distrusting of outside influence. And certainly getting this community on board has been a challenge, and missteps have been made along the way in doing that.”