Ebola epidemic mistrust in DRC

Syringe on map of Africa

The most recent Ministry of Health newsletter announced the latest figures in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, stating that since the beginning of the epidemic there have been 1,022 cases. This count includes 957 confirmed and 65 probable cases.

The newsletter also states that there have been a total of 639 deaths (574 confirmed and 65 probable) and 324 people cured. At present, 161 suspected cases are under investigation and there are more new cases in Katwa, Mandima and Vuhovi and four high-risk community deaths have occurred in Katwa and Mandima.

New research published in the Lancet has uncovered distrust among people in the DRC. A survey of 961 people in the central Congolese cities of Beni and Butembo found that more than one-quarter of people in areas of the DRC where Ebola is circulating don’t believe the disease exists, while 36 per cent of respondents believe the disease has been fabricated to destabilise the country. The authors of the study said that this mistrust is contributing to the epidemic’s prolongation.

The study’s lead author, Patrick Vinck from Harvard Medical School, US, spoke to the UK programme BBC Newsday: "The lack of trust combines with the epidemic to really make people not want to follow advice, not want to listen to what authorities have to tell them to prevent the spread of the epidemic."

Shockingly, the research found that less than two-thirds of people questioned said they would take a vaccine for Ebola. Vaccination is crucial in the Government of the DRC’s work with the World Health Organization to protect high-risk populations against the disease. “Vaccination will be key to controlling this outbreak,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Without the trust and co-operation of DRC residents, the epidemic may continue to persist.