Slowdown in Ebola Cases as Funding Increases

Nov. 5, 2014 – The World Health Organization on Wednesday said that incidences of the Ebola virus appear to be on the decline in Liberia, stabilizing in Guinea but increasing in Sierra Leone, particularly in the capital Freetown.

The latest WHO situation report shows 398 new cases in Liberia in the past 21 days out of a total of 6,525 cases that have resulted in 2,697 deaths so far.  In Guinea, 256 new cases have been recorded in the past three weeks bringing the total to 1,731 cases with 1,041 deaths.

However, Sierra Leone has reported 435 cases in the past week alone. “Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the capital of Freetown, which reported 115 new confirmed cases and remains one of the worst affected cities in this outbreak.”

Sierra Leone has the second highest incidence of Ebola, after Liberia, with 4759 cases resulting in 1,070 deaths. More than a quarter of the country’s Ebola cases have been recorded in the past three weeks.

The WHO also said that the number of beds in Ebola Treatment Centers (ETCs) has increased from 284 at the beginning of August to 1,047 at the end of October with 593 in Liberia, 294 in Sierra Leone and 160 in Guinea.

“The establishment of more beds is in part held back by challenges in finding sufficient numbers of foreign medical teams to operate ETCs,” the WHO said.

The outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is separate and unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa, is almost under control. There have been no new cases in the past 24 days, WHO said, and if no other cases are reported in the next 18 days the country can be declared Ebola-free.

Meanwhile, funding to combat Ebola is increasing with more than $1 billion committed so far according to UN figures. The top five contributors are the United States, which has given $313 million; the UK, $95 million; Canada, $51 million; China, $41 million; and Sweden $34 million.

Russia is the only permanent member of the Security Council that has not yet donated funds to combat Ebola.

A list of all contributions and pledges made so far is here and includes funds given directly to the UN appeal as well as money donated bi-laterally to an affected country.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Little Progress in Prosecuting Rapists in DRC

UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, briefing the Human RIghts Council in March on continuing challenges in combatting sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, briefing the Human Rights Council in March on continuing challenges in combatting sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

April 9, 2014 – The national army and police are the main perpetrators of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo and their crimes mostly go unpunished.

A total of 3,635 victims of sexual violence – mostly rape – were registered by the UN Human Rights Office in DRC between January 2010 and December 2013 and the national army, the FARDC, were responsible for 1,281 incidents, according to a joint report released on Wednesday. Members of the police force and other state agents were responsible for several more incidents.

“Most cases of sexual violence are never investigated or prosecuted, and very few are even reported,” the report states.

Of the incidents reported to the UN, 25 percent were committed against children and the age of victims ranged from 2 to 80.

“Despite increased efforts by Congolese authorities to arrest and try alleged perpetrators of crimes of sexual violence, many such cases never reach a court of law,” the report states. “Of particular concern is the impunity enjoyed by a number of high-ranking officers alleged to be responsible for crimes of sexual violence.”

From July 2011 to December 2013,  there were 187 convictions by military courts for sexual violence, mostly for rape. Seventy-three percent of those convicted were members of the army, 17 percent were from the police and 8 percent were other State agents, the report says.

In some cases, there are out-of-court settlements usually involving the head of the perpetrator’s family and the head of the victim’s family and in most cases the victim is left outside the process, the report says. In other cases, marriage is arranged between the perpetrator and victim, adding a further violation to the victim’s fundamental rights.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

‘Flying Cameras’ for DRC not Armed Drones says Peacekeeping Chief

Feb. 6, 2013 – The head of U.N. peacekeeping operations on Wednesday said the planned deployment of unmanned aircraft vehicles for surveillance in the Democratic Republic of Congo should not be conflated with the use of drone aircraft by the United States to launch missiles.

“Maybe the word should not be drones because these days, you know, people associate the word drones with the image of missiles being launched,” Herve Ladsous said at a press conference when asked about the recent authorization by the Security Council to allow MONUSCO deploy surveillance drones in the DRC. “No, no, no,” he said. “This clearly is UAVs for surveillance purposes only, basically a flying camera.”

Or, to put it another way, drones that take pictures, not lives.

The U.N. says it will use the drones to monitor the movements of militia groups and to help it better respond to humanitarian situations.

– Denis Fitzgerald