The problems of eradicating Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are not only medical, but also linked 'to a variety of political and social factors', the head of the UN mission in the country told the Security Council on Wednesday.
'Along with continuing high levels of community distrust around the response to the epidemic', Leila Zerrougui - UN Special Representative and head of the UN's Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) - said that militants, including the ADF and Mai-Mai groups, have caused 'a deadly environment' for the people working to counter the virus, 'to the point of being specifically threatened and killed by armed groups'.
She stated that the Ebola epidemic has now 'claimed the lives of more than 1,700 people' and recent isolated cases in Goma and across the border in Uganda 'have heightened concerns about its spread outside of the Beni and Butembo areas'.
This led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the epidemic an official Public Health Emergency of International Concern last week. Ms. Zerrougui also underlined the 'serious need' to finance the response to other epidemiological and humanitarian crises in the DRC.
'The measles outbreak, for example, has already claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people since the beginning of this year, even more than Ebola', she said.
'Displacement and protection threats'
She informed the council that MONUSCO has closed several field offices in areas where there is no longer armed conflict, which 'will permit us to concentrate our resources onstrengthening of State institutions' and protect civilians 'in areas where conflict and activities of armed groups continue to have a devastating impact'.
On the security situation, the Special Representative pointed out that over the past weeks, violence has risen in several areas in the eastern part of the country.
'I am concerned with the current situation in Ituri province, where spoilers are seeking to play on ethnic tensions to instigate inter-community violence', she said, adding that attacks by the ADF 'continue to exact an intolerable toll on civilians'.
In Masisi, she said armed groups had been responsible for other atrocities, notably conflict-related sexual violence.
Violence continues to be the main driver of humanitarian need in the DRC, spelled out Ms. Zerrougui. 'As a result, the country is currently facing simultaneous emergency situations, including mass displacement and protection threats'.