Ebola virus and conflict in Congo Brazzaville: Commission grants EURO 2 million in humanitarian aid

The European Commission has approved a €2 million funding decision for the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) to help meet humanitarian needs resulting from conflict and the spread of the Ebola virus. Of this total amount, €500,000 will be targeted at controlling the current Ebola epidemic, and €1.4 million will be used to improve the conditions of people affected by conflict in the region of Pool (with €100,000 in reserve). The aid will be channelled over the next 6 months through the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), which comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson.
Ebola: The region between Congo Brazzaville and the Gabon was hit by the fatal Ebola virus between December 2001 and April 2002. A second epidemic was detected in January 2003. In both cases the EU funded regional environmental programme ECOFAC sounded the alert. ECOFAC has been monitoring the health of great apes the animal through which the disease seems to be spread to humans since 1999, together with the World Conservation Society and the Centre International de Recherche Médicale de Franceville. ECOFAC also provided immediate support for local people, as well as all the logistics to help manage the crisis. An international meeting on Ebola was organised by ECOFAC in Brazzaville from 4 to 6 March 2003.

According to recent data, 95 cases (probable and confirmed) of Ebola, including 77 deaths, have been reported from the Cuvette Ouest Region. The mortality rate is high: Eight out of ten of those with the disease have died from it. 10,000 people living in the affected area (Mbombo and Kéllé) are directly in danger. The population of the Cuvette district is also at risk. ECHO's funding decision will help implement a strategy designed to prevent the further spread of the virus. Diagnosis will be improved by boosting the health service and by actively searching for new isolated cases. Isolation units for sufferers will be created where needs arise. An awareness raising campaign will inform the local population how to diagnose, treat and prevent the spread of the disease. Health workers will be trained to protect themselves and provided with the necessary equipment. The overall co-ordination of health interventions will be ensured through an epidemic management committee.

Conflict: The people of Congo Brazzaville are also suffering from the conflict between the army of President Sassou Nguesso and the 'Ninja' militia led by Frédérique Bitsanou (also known as "Pasteur Ntoumi"). Ongoing hostilities in the Pool region have affected almost 200,000 vulnerable and displaced people. About 100,000 people living in the conflict zone are currently inaccessible to aid workers. ECHO funds will provide displaced people with clean water, hygiene facilities, health services and nutritional support. The funds will also enable aid workers to actively seek out vulnerable people affected by the conflict living in rural areas. About 5000 families will be provided with essential items such as soap, blankets, jerry cans and plastic sheets. Vulnerable families affected by the conflict will be provided with the seeds and tools necessary for agricultural production.