The death toll from an Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo climbed to 125 as the number of new infections accelerates, the Health Ministry said.
Authorities in the central African nation are struggling to contain the worst epidemic of the viral illness since it killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2014 and 2016. Their efforts are being hampered by violence in the region, where dozens of militia groups carry out frequent attacks, and local mistrust of health workers.
“Since October, a large increase in the number of new cases has been observed, mainly in Beni,” the ministry said in a statement emailed Thursday from the capital, Kinshasa. Beni is a large town near where the latest outbreak in Congo was identified in August.
The World Health Organization has called for urgent funding to help curb the disease’s spread.
The response to the outbreak is “becoming increasingly undermined by security challenges in at-risk areas, particularly Beni,” the WHO said in a statement published Friday. It cited “incidents of conflict between rebel and government forces, and pockets of community push-back.”
Authorities in the area this week introduced new measures to tackle local resistance. People who harbor Ebola patients and prevent them from receiving treatment in specialist facilities can be sent to prison, while health workers performing safe burials are able to request police protection.
Three Red Cross volunteers were attacked and seriously injured last week while carrying out the burial of an Ebola victim in Butembo, 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Beni.
The rising number of cases is “likely underestimated given expected delays in case reporting, the ongoing detection of sporadic cases, and security concerns which limit contact tracing and investigation of alerts,” according to the WHO.