Ebola death toll among children in DRC rising steadily steadily

Aug. 9, 2019
Roughly 740 children have been infected with the disease since Ebola surfaced in the DRC

The deadly Ebola virus has taken the lives of more than 500 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Save the Children said in a press statement on August 6, with the number of deaths accelerating over the past six months. In total, around 740 children have been infected with the disease since Ebola surfaced in the DRC. Adding the number of probable child cases to that figure raises the total number of cases to 787, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  

The figures show how the spread of the disease has accelerated: in the first six months after the Ebola outbreak on August 1, 2018, just under 100 children died of Ebola. In the six months that followed, more than four times as many children lost their lives.

“This is another grim milestone in a crisis that is devastating children in its path, especially the youngest,” said Heather Kerr, Save the Children’s Country Director in DRC in the statement. “Roughly 40 percent of children who have contracted the disease are under the age of five, and many of them have died.”

“The spread of Ebola is having a wider impact on children as well; because of the high fatality rate in this outbreak, thousands of children have lost at least one of their parents to the disease or were separated from their parents,” Kerr continued. The virus puts children at risk of being stigmatized, isolated or abandoned, in addition to suffering the unbearable trauma of losing a loved one. Children who are on their own face the very real danger of abuse and exploitation, or of being recruited by armed groups. Children aren’t going to school because their parents have died and those taking care of them can’t afford the school fees, or because schools are closing due to insecurity.”

According to WHO’s latest External Situation Report, released on August 6, total cases have reached 2,763 and 1,849 deaths. Of the total confirmed and probable cases with reported sex and age, 57 percent (1562) were female, and 28 percent (787) were children aged less than 18 years. WHO says more than 60,000 children between 1 and 17 years old have been vaccinated so far.   

The University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy also reported that last December UNICEF sounded the alarm about the high number of children infected in the outbreak, noting that one of every third people confirmed infected in the DRC's outbreak was a child, unusual for Ebola epidemics. The agency noted that 1 in 10 children were under age 5 and that kids were more likely to die from the disease than adults.

“The WHO declared this an emergency of international concern, and that should mean the international community steps up its support,” concluded Kerr in her announcement. “Contacts of the sick need to be traced, patients need to be looked after, the dead need to be buried safely, and above all, trust needs to be built with the communities so it’s understood that Ebola is very real, and that it kills.”real, and that it kills.”