The World Health Organisation (WHO) raised the alarm on Thursday about a growing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and warned of an imminent shortage of funds to fight the deadly disease.

The organisation said 56 cases have been reported in Equator province, more than the total number of cases recorded in the province’s last outbreak in 2018.

Efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic have complicated the response to the Ebola outbreak, according to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.

“We must not let Covid-19 distract us from tackling other pressing health threats,” Dr Moeti said.

“The current Ebola outbreak is running into headwinds because cases are scattered across remote areas in dense rainforests.”

WHO said in a statement that it has mobilised US$1.75 million (S$2.4 million) to combat the Ebola outbreak, which was declared on June 1, but that will last only a few more weeks.

Dr Moeti called for additional funding to help with vaccinations, testing, contact tracing, treatment and health education.

Another Ebola outbreak in the east of the country was declared over on June 25 after two years and 2,280 deaths.

Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergency health programme who has worked extensively on Ebola, said on Monday that as of the day before, there had been 17 deaths from confirmed Ebola cases and three more from suspected cases.

He said that while the numbers may appear low, the threat of spread is worrisome, especially because of the extreme logistical problems for healthcare workers in accessing remote, affected communities.

“Any one of those individual cases can result in amplification of the disease,” he said.

Dr Moeti said over 12,000 people have been vaccinated in Equator in the six weeks since the outbreak started, beginning four days after the outbreak was declared.

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