One of the biggest hurdles to tackling the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged DR Congo for more than a year has been lack of accurate information about the epidemic. Either due to ignorance or for fear of stigmatisation, many cases of infections have gone unreported, further fuelling the spread.
It is, therefore, unsettling that Tanzanian authorities have been less than enthusiastic in providing information on suspected cases of Ebola in the country, potentially hindering efforts to curb the spread. WHO says it learnt on September 10 of a suspected case of the disease in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam, and information emerged that the patient’s contacts had been hidden yet the person had tested positive for Ebola.
Two other suspected cases were also not reported. But on September 14, Tanzanian authorities officially reported there was no Ebola in the country but declined independent tests by WHO.
Also troubling is an accusation by the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) against WHO for rationing the Ebola vaccine in DRC, where more than 2,100 people have died of the virus. It called for an independent international coordination committee to ensure transparency of stocks management and data sharing.
About 225,000 people have received the Ebola vaccine manufactured by German pharmaceutical giant Merck since August last year, but that remains insufficient. Ebola is an epidemic like no other. Lethal and highly contagious, the fight against it can only be successful with the concerted efforts and cooperation of everybody in the affected jurisdiction.
No person or group should sacrifice the anti-Ebola crusade at the altar of partisan interests. While we unequivocally sympathise and empathise with the affected persons, the havoc visited upon them by the epidemic could easily spread and harm more people.