Democratic Republic of Congo Health Minister resigns over Ebola outbreak

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The Health Minister of Democratic Republic of Congo, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, resigned on Monday after the country’s president took away the responsibility of managing the country’s Ebola outbreak from him

Kalenga’s resignation letter was shared on Twitter in protest to the decision by president Felix Tshisekedi to remove the management of Ebola crisis directly from the Health Minister’s supervision and reassigning it to a multi-disciplinary team that would report directly to the president.  According to the Health Minister, this might “risk creating harmful confusion and cacophony”.

Congolese health workers collect data before administering Ebola vaccines to civilians at the Himbi Health Centre, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on July 17, 2019.

In a letter to the president, the Health Minister said;

“As a result of your decision to place the response to the Ebola outbreak under your direct supervision, I hereby submit my resignation as health minister.”

“As in any war, because that is what this is, there cannot be several centers of decision-making for risk of creating confusion,” he added.

Kalenga criticized the outside pressure to deploy a second Ebola vaccine manufactured by US-based firm Johnson & Johnson.

“It would be fanciful to think that the new vaccine proposed by actors, who have shown an obvious lack of ethics by voluntarily hiding important information from medical authorities, could have a significant impact on the control of the current outbreak,” he said.

He also advised against the use of new vaccines for Ebola, stating that the Merck vaccine currently in use is the only one that has proven to be effective.

The latest Ebola outbreak – the second-largest ever – started in August 2018 and is affecting two provinces in Democratic Republic of Congo, North Kivu and Ituri.

More than 2,500 people have been infected since last year and about 1,700 of them have died, according to BBC.

The World Health Organization last week declared ‘Ebola’ a global health emergency.

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