GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 28 (Reuters) – Children in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo are dying of Ebola at an unprecedented rate due to poor sanitation practices in clinics by traditional healers, the Department of Health said Sunday.
The impact on children has been acutely felt in the city of Beni, which has emerged as a new epicenter of the outbreak. Out of 120 confirmed Ebola cases in Beni, at least 30 are under 10 years old and 27 of them died according to the Ministry of Health.
Many children affected by a non-contagious malaria outbreak near Beni are said to have received Ebola in clinics owned by traditional healers who have also treated Ebola patients, said Health Ministry spokeswoman Jessica Ilunga.
"There is an unusually high number of children who have Ebola and died there in Beni, and children are usually not affected by any Ebola epidemic," Ilunga told Reuters.
"Traditional healers use the same tools to treat everyone, and the child who has entered a traditional healer clinic with malaria comes out with Ebola and dies a few days later," she said.
The rate of new cases in eastern Congo has accelerated in recent weeks. A World Health Organization emergency committee said earlier this month that the outbreak would likely worsen if the response were not stepped up.
The Ministry of Health reported nine new confirmed cases on Saturday night ̵
The haemorrhagic fever is believed to have killed 168 people and infected another 98 in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, where attacks by armed groups and popular resistance against health officials made the response more difficult.
Since the discovery of the virus near its eponymous Ebola river in 1976, the Congo has suffered 10 Ebola epidemics. The current number is now in third place of the number of confirmed cases. (Report by Fiston Mahamba and Giulia Paravicini, editors: Aaron Ross and Toby Chopra)