Goma. With siren and blue light, the ambulance stops in front of the hospital in Goma, the provincial capital of eastern Congo. But the entrance gate is firmly locked. Without measuring fever and disinfecting hands, nobody comes along, even in emergency situations. In crisis-torn eastern Congo, precautionary measures are being taken everywhere – in restaurants, bars, schools, churches or offices – to prevent the death of the deadly Ebola virus.
The megacity Goma, right on the border with Rwanda, is still unaffected. But the danger is high – and then the disease could spread quickly in East Africa. The last regional Ebola epidemic in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 has cost more than 11,000 lives.
The epicenter Ebola is located 240 kilometers north of Goma, in the region around the city of Beni. There are now 73 suspected cases, of which 46 are confirmed, 27 patients under observation; 43 are already deceased. "The figures are still rising," says the Ebola comicist of Congo, Richard Kitenge. Stressed out, the emergency coordinator in Goma's hospital is facing an overloaded desk, the mobile phone is constantly ringing. But he is convinced: "Until next week we should get the situation under control," he says. The Congolese know about Ebola. The virus comes from the jungle in the heart of Africa and is named after a river that flows through the Congo.
Only two weeks ago, the Ministry of Health of Congo declared a new Ebola outbreak "restricted". At the same time 33 people died in the northern province of Equateur. Beni is just under 1500 kilometers away. To confirm genetic testing for the virus: it is another pathogen, the virus has not been passed over the whole country.
This is good news. The other: international doctors, nurses and experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) were already active in northern Congo until the end of July. The necessary logistics was already on site – just like the new vaccine. The Ebola teams were able to respond quickly. The UN mission in Congo (Monusco) delivered two large aircraft last Friday to fly doctors and equipment over the powerful country.
In Equateur was in June for the first time in History has tried a vaccine for prevention. This is now also being applied in Beni. "With the current vaccine coverage, we hope that the number of new cases will decrease," says Kitenge. And another component is now being used worldwide for the first time: a molecule that is administered to infected patients. "This is a test, but with systematic treatment we can study the results," says the Ebola expert.