The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the eastern DR Congo city of Goma has died, the governor of North Kivu province said on Tuesday.
The case – the first in a major urban hub in the region’s nearly year-old epidemic of the disease – has sparked deep concern in neighbouring Rwanda and at the UN.
France meanwhile appointed a top immunologist, Yves Levy, to spearhead its response to the outbreak.
“Unfortunately, I can confirm that the patient died,” the governor of North Kivu, Carly Nzanzu, told reporters.
The patient has been described as an evangelical preacher who had travelled from Goma to Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the outbreak.
While there, he preached at seven churches and regularly touched worshippers, including the sick, before taking the bus back to Goma last Friday, the health ministry said.
On his return on Sunday, he went to a clinic with a fever, was diagnosed with Ebola and sent back to Butembo, which is better geared than Goma for treating the disease, it said.
“He died during transfer by road,” Nzanzu said.
More than 1,600 people have died from Ebola since August 1, when the haemorrhagic virus erupted in North Kivu and spread to neighbouring Ituri.
Health experts fear outbreaks of contagious disease in a major city.
In cities, density of population, high mobility and anonymity make it far harder to isolate patients and trace contacts compared to the countryside.
Goma is a border city of about one million people located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, adjacent to Rwanda.
It has a port that links to Bukavu and South Kivu province and an airport with flights to Kinshasa, the Ugandan capital Entebbe and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
The city abuts the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, and there is a high number of daily border crossings, involving workers and people who have jobs or homes on the other side of the frontier.
The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday warned the Goma case was a “potential game-changer” in the fight to roll back the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It said it would reconvene a key panel to see whether the outbreak required a heightened global response.
Separately, Rwanda said Monday it would step up border monitoring and urged its citizens to avoid “unnecessary” travel to the eastern DRC.
Levy, as a former head of France’s prestigious National Institution of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), is well qualified for his new role coordinating the French response.
His appointment was announced a day after a top UN health official voiced criticism of France’s financial contribution to the Ebola campaign.
“We rely on the government of France for a lot of technical cooperation,” Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, told reporters in Geneva on Monday.
“But as of this moment, WHO has not received any financial contribution from the government of France.”
At the same Geneva meeting, British International Development Secretary Rory Stewart also called on French-speaking countries to do more.
“We need French-speaking expertise and above all we’re going to need a lot of money – into the hundreds of millions of dollars – to really get the depth of response we need.”
The latest epidemic is the second deadliest on record globally. The worst Ebola outbreak, striking three West African countries between 2014-2016, claimed more than 11,300 lives.
People infected with Ebola do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.
High fever, weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat are often followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding. In the current epidemic, the mortality rate is running at 66 percent.
Africa records highest growth in use of modern contraceptives
Gains of 7 per cent were recorded in East and Southern Africa, against a global growth of 2 per cent.
The number of women and girls embracing modern contraception has leapt by tens of millions, with Africa recording the biggest gains, according to the organisation Family Planning 2020 (FP2020).
A new report shows that 314 million women and girls in 69 countries – out of 926 million of child-bearing age – now use contraceptive methods like condoms, pills and birth control implants.
The figures represent a gain of 2 per cent globally since 2012, while gains of 7 per cent were recorded in East and Southern Africa.
“The use of modern contraception is growing fastest here in Africa,” FP2020 director Beth Schlachter told a press conference in Nairobi, ahead of a global conference on population and development set to begin Tuesday.
FP2020, a self-described “global movement” founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the British government, works with governmental and non-governmental partners to promote goals set at a conference in London in 2012.
Specifically, it has been striving for 120 million new contraception users by 2020.
“Family planning is a basic right,” said Benoit Kalasa, a representative of the United Nations Population Fund, citing the dangers posed by pregnancies that are too close together or that occur at a young age.
“It gives women the means to plan their life. They can stay in school when they avoid unplanned pregnancies. Women can space pregnancies to participate in economic activities.”
Of the 69 countries covered in the report, 41 are in Africa, 21 are in Asia and Oceania, four are in Latin America and the Caribbean and three are in the Middle East.
Schlachter said that governments seem increasingly focused on integrating family planning into health policy with an eye toward overcoming logistical challenges and cultural and religious barriers.
“In many places, even if you resolve things like funding of family planning or supply chain, unless you also work with communities and women to actually understand what contraception is, there will be a barrier to uptake.”
This week’s International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi is not without controversy.
On Monday around 100 supporters of a Catholic organisation demonstrated against the conference, which will focus on demographics and reproductive rights.
Victoire Ingabire launches new political party in Rwanda
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire announced Saturday she was launching a new political party
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire announced Saturday she was launching a new political party, hoping it will be allowed to operate in a country where the ruling regime has no real rival.
Ingabire’s previous party FDU-Inkingi, which she founded while in exile in 2016, was not recognised by the government of long-ruling President Paul Kagame.
She was imprisoned until receiving a presidential pardon last year from Kagame, whom she regularly accuses of suppressing freedom of speech, repressing the opposition and neglecting the country’s poor.
“I am announcing the launch of a new opposition party,” Ingabire told AFP, saying it would be called Dalfa Umurunzi (Development And Liberty For All).
“This will help me to continue the mission that had been assigned to me by the FDU-Inkingi party,” she added.
“The political space in this country is very limited but we are ready to fulfil all legal requirements for registration and conduct our activities in accordance to the laws of the nation.”
She returned from exile in The Netherlands intending to run for president in 2010 as FDU-Inkingi’s leader.
But she was arrested, charged with terrorism and sentenced to more than a decade in jail during a widely criticised trial. She was unexpectedly granted early release alongside more than 2,000 other prisoners in September last year.
Ingabire, an ethnic Hutu, was accused of “genocide ideology” and “divisiveness” after publicly questioning the government narrative of the 1994 genocide of mostly Tutsi people that killed around 800,000 people.
Numerous FDU-Inkingi members have disappeared or been killed in mysterious circumstances over the last few years. The party accuses the government of brutally cracking down on dissenting voices.
One member was stabbed near the capital Kigali in September, while party spokesman Anselm Mutuyimana was kidnapped in March, his body later found in a forest.
Although Rwanda is constitutionally a multi-party system there is practically no opposition, with most of the recognised parties supporting the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
Kagame, the de facto ruler since his rebel army stopped the genocide in 1994, has been praised for bringing stability and economic growth to his tiny nation but often comes under fire for restricting political freedom.
He commonly wins re-election with more than 90 per cent of the vote.
Springboks’ Rugby World Cup win springs hope of unity in South Africa
The significance of Kolisi lifting the trophy after a 32-12 victory over England resonated across South Africa.
South Africans white and black celebrated wildly on Saturday and expressed hopes that the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup win, inspired by black captain Siya Kolisi, would bring the nation together.
The significance of Kolisi lifting the trophy after a 32-12 victory over England in Yokohama resonated across South Africa.
During the years of apartheid, rugby was clearly identified as the sport of the country’s white minority.
When Kolisi was made South Africa’s first black Test captain last year, it felt as if a barrier had been broken down — and in Yokohama on Saturday his achievement, and the team’s gradual racial transformation, was there for the world and millions of South Africans back home to see.
“Knowing where we come from as a country and to see Kolisi lift the trophy is absolutely monumental. It is really an incredible moment. Tears come to my eyes,” said Tshenolo Molatedi, a 26-year-old who watched the match at a Johannesburg sports club.
Joseph Mitchell, 50, a black actor, said the victory would have enormous significance.
“We are now 25 years into democracy and for the last 25 years, whites have dominated rugby and everything! It’s about time that people of colour can come forward to prove to the world that we are capable and probably better.”
The apartheid-era legacy meant that whites dominated the Springboks’ previous two World Cup-winning teams, despite only representing 10 per cent of the South African population.
Only one black player, Chester Williams, was in the victorious 1995 team and two, JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, were part of the Springboks team that triumphed again 12 years later.
On Saturday, black wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scored the two late tries that put the final beyond the reach of England, who were pre-match favourites.
“If you give black people a chance they can deliver and today’s win is a proof of that,” said Tsakane Mabunda, 45.
Seeing Kolisi hold the Webb Ellis trophy aloft brought back memories of the 1995 win when South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, presented the trophy to the team’s white captain, Francois Pienaar.
“Our father, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, is smiling from the heavens today. Halala Siya Kolisi, treasure of the nation!” another of the heroes of the fight against racial segregation, Desmond Tutu, said in a congratulatory message to the team.
A quarter of a century after the fall of apartheid, South Africa is still riven by racial tensions and deep economic inequality between whites and blacks remains.
But Tom Hammonds, 34, a white teacher, said the Rugby World Cup had united the country.
“We feel we are the Rainbow Nation. We have had a lot of problems in this country but sports always bring us together,” he said.
The ruling ANC also drew on Mandela’s legacy to express its hope that the World Cup win would bring lasting dividends.
“Sport is one of the biggest catalysts of social cohesion and nation-building, bringing together all South Africa’s people,” it said in a statement addressed to the team.
“Thank you for reigniting the Madiba magic – and making our Rainbow nation come alive.”
In Cape Town, the crowd watching the match on big screens erupted in joy at the final whistle.
“Look around, we have black, white, coloured … we are all united here today,” said Justin Johnson, a 35-year-old IT worker.
“The Springboks have done more for South Africa than any political party.
“I feel like in 1995 and even 2007 the Springbok emblem was still synonymous with the old regime and caused a lot of division. But today I think we have come full circle.”
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