SOS Children
DRC – 21 August 2018

Ebola confirmed in DRC just days after outbreak declared over

A fresh outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), sparking concerns it will spread into neighbouring Uganda.  

The announcement comes just eight days after an outbreak which killed 33 people in the Equateur Province of the country was declared officially over. The latest cases have occurred 2500 km away in the North Kivu province, which shares borders with Uganda and Rwanda. 

The threat of cross-border transmission is being exacerbated by DRC’s ongoing civil war which has forced 780,000 Congolese people to flee into neighbouring countries since hostilities began. Escalating violence in recent months has led to a surge in migration and officials are concerned this may hamper attempts to contain the spread of the virus. 

As Africa’s largest host country for refugees Uganda is considered particularly at risk. The country is already providing sanctuary to 290,000 people from the conflict-ridden region, with more making the crossing every week.  

SOS Children’s Villages runs several projects in Uganda which may come under threat if the virus spreads. Their village community in Fort Portal is caring for more than 100 unsupported children in a family-like environment. They are also supporting families at the Rwamwanja refugee settlement, helping to boost the local economy, support women-only households and improve relations between refugee and host communities. 

Robert Bahenyangi, SOS Children’s Villages Programme Director for Fort Porto said: “We are deeply concerned about the possibility of an Ebola virus outbreak as a result of cross-border travel from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the DRC are highly volatile because of unrest and the situation is made worse by the porous nature of the border. 

“We are closely monitoring reports of new cases of the Ebola virus in eastern DRC and are prepared for emergency intervention should there be any health risks to the children and families in our programmes or the communities in the border region.” 

Ebola is a constant threat in DRC. The latest outbreak, which has already claimed the lives of 44 people, has been confirmed as the highly dangerous Zaire strain which has the highest fatality rate of any Ebola virus. A vaccination programme is underway, but the response is being hampered by the large numbers of internally displaced people within the region and the complicated security situation.  

According to the UN, children have been particularly affected by the outbreak. Two children have already died, and six others are receiving treatment for suspected Ebola infections. More than 50 youngsters have lost their parents.  

SOS Children’s Villages has been working in the DRC since the late 80s when the country was still known as Zaire. They are supporting children and young people in three locations across the country, providing: 

  • A family upbringing for unsupported children  
  • Education and vocational training  
  • Income generation and practical support for at-risk families  
  • Medical assistance 

You can find out more information about sponsoring a child in DRC or Uganda here. 

Notes to editors: 
For media enquiries please contact Lucy Prioli at Lucy.Prioli@sosuk.org or on 01223 222 974