According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the second largest in history, with at least 426 confirmed cases in the country.
The outbreak was declared on 1 August, has led to at least 198 confirmed deaths, said DR Congo's Ministry of Health.
It is the tenth time in the Democratic Republic of Congo since Ebola was first discovered there in 1976 and is concentrated around the troubled eastern city of Beni in the north of Kivu region, which was affected by armed conflicts affecting its efforts has hindered the containment of the outbreak.
Al Jazeera spoke to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of WHO Africa, on the spread of the outbreak, lessons learned from previous outbreaks, and the future of health issues in Africa.
Al Jazeera: The Health Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo called it the "worst outbreak" in the country's history. How hard is it for the WHO to fight it?
Matshidiso Moeti : This happens in a zone where conflicts have been around for a long time. There is also a mistrust and acceptance in the population was a particular problem. When we were there, there were attacks on communities, kidnappings, threats to our employees, and even attacks.
We sought to work together with community groups at community level to spread the word to everyone, including the armed groups. We want to tell them that we are all at risk when an Ebola outbreak occurs and the virus is in circulation.
This is a combination of security problems and mistrust of the population and sometimes even reluctance to cooperate. There are areas under the radar where infection control is very poor, these are some of the main areas in which the transmission takes place and this has made the situation difficult and complicated.
This is a work in progress.
Al Jazeera: What resistance have you met in the communities?
Moeti : One of the biggest challenges was the initial resistance of the communities. Some ask why we are here now. They ask where we were when they were killed by these armed groups and how we were noticed when Ebola hit them.
One thing we are working on is safe and dignified burials. That's one of the biggest areas of contamination and infection. In African communities, we have traditions when it comes to birth, marriages and death. This is when we remember our culture and return to practice it.
Al Jazeera: How difficult is it to safely share families with the bodies of loved ones?
Moeti : It's difficult. People do not find it easy to accept it. There has been resistance. But we have managed to make it effective. It is important to know with whom he should work, who has the trust of the community and a relationship with them ̵
Investing in dialogue with the community was also important Not just for monitoring but also for trust in people's belief in appreciating the risk and changing their practices – how to deal with loved ones and essentially hand them over to a safe funeral.
Al Jazeera: How is this belief carried out?
Moeti : For example, there are a very large number of small hospitals run by a number of health professionals. This is a mixture of traditional remedies and modern medicine, but they are not really regulated. This was used by the population and is trustworthy, but much has been transferred here.
Now we work with them on infection prevention and control. We provide them with the material, the knowledge and the training to help people understand when they visit them and understand what they need to do to prevent the transfer. Al Jazeera: Malaria killed about 435,000 people last year, 93 percent of those in Africa. Last year, you told Al Jazeera that "progress has been made but not enough." Why is progress still slow?
Moeti : The situation is still very similar. Twelve months are not much time to turn a program around …
Al Jazeera: … but it's about nearly 400,000 deaths …
Moeti : You need to recalibrate and what additional capacity you have to tackle the bottlenecks you encounter. You see, it's one thing to distribute bednets, but another to change the behavior of people in their homes – make sure they actually use it and consistently apply that practice.
We found that ten African countries and India are the heaviest burden countries [as part of a new initiative] and plan to improve the situation.