Almost 100 children have died in the world’s second largest outbreak of the Ebola virus, with 65 being younger than five years old.
According to the charity Save the Children, 97 children had died in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since August last year when the outbreak of the virus was declared there.
There are more than 800 cases reported in the country.
It is the tenth outbreak of Ebola – and the second most severe – in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1976 when the virus was first identified near the Ebola River.
The worst outbreak was from to 2014 to 2016 in a number of West and Central African nations, infecting 28,652 people and killing 11,325 of them.
In this outbreak to date, 811 people had reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever by early February, with 750 having been tested positive for Ebola.
There have so far been more than 500 deaths from this outbreak.
January was high period when fatalities jumped from 20 a week to more than 40 a week.
“We are at a crossroads. If we don’t take urgent steps to contain this, the outbreak might last another six months, if not the whole year,” said Heather Kerr, Save the Children’s country director.
“It is paramount to convince communities that Ebola is an urgent and real concern.
“People have disrupted funerals because they didn’t believe the deceased had succumbed to the virus. Aid workers were threatened because it was believed they spread Ebola.
“We have to scale up our efforts to reach out to the vocal youth and community leaders to build trust and to help us turn this tide. Treating the people who are sick is essential, but stopping Ebola from spreading further is just as important.”
Children account for about 30 per cent of all cases and are at greater risk of dying from the virus than are adults.
The World Health Organisation has stated that while the global risk of Ebola transmission remains low, it is very high for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African region.
This is the first Ebola outbreak in an active war zone.