Congo Official Can’t Explain Missing US Ebola Funds: Report

Former Minister of Health Oly Ilunga was taken into custody in connection with an investigation into the use of Ebola funds. U.S. taxpayers have provided over $100 million to fight the outbreak of Ebola in Congo.

Update:

Sep 16, 2019

Congo’s former health minister detained over $4.3 million in missing Ebola funds

CNN – Former Democratic Republic of Congo health minister Oly Ilunga has been detained over allegations of mismanaging public funds worth $4.3 million that were allocated to fighting the Ebola outbreak in the country, one of his lawyers told CNN on Monday.

Ilunga quit his position as health minister in July after he was stripped of his responsibility as head of Congo’s Ebola response team.

He has denied any wrongdoing, said his lawyer, Guy Bayeka.

In a statement on Monday, his attorneys said $1.9 million of the money was spent after Ilunga resigned from office and he cannot be held responsible for its management.

“He reaffirms firmly his innocence in this case and promises to vigorously defend his honor,” his attorney’s said in the statement.

Bayeka denied claims that Ilunga was fleeing the country when he was taken into police custody on Saturday and called for his immediate release from detention … Read more. 

Congo police detain ex-health minister in Ebola funds probe; US sent at least $136 million

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Police in Congo have detained the former minister of health amid an investigation into the use of Ebola funds as confirmed Ebola deaths rose to near 2,000 and confirmed cases of the virus exceeded 3,000 in the sprawling African nation.

Former Minister of Health Oly Ilunga was taken into custody, police said in a statement Saturday.

Ilunga resigned in July to protest President Felix Tshisekedi’s decision to take over the management of the response to the world’s second deadliest Ebola outbreak, which is ongoing now in eastern Congo, from Ilunga.

As he resigned, Ilunga deplored the lack of cooperation between him, the president and the prime minister in response to the deadly Ebola outbreak.

Police said Saturday that Ilunga had been arrested less than a month ago for misdemeanor offenses involving the mishandling of funds and he was released. He has since made plans to travel to the neighboring Republic of Congo, they said, adding he was taken into custody to make sure he would not avoid legal proceedings.

Congo’s National Ebola Response Committee released the latest Ebola numbers Friday after a discussion in Goma by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church about efforts to help stem the spread of Ebola in communities.

A mistrust of health workers and widespread security issues still threaten the fight against the Ebola outbreak in a region where armed groups have fought for decades over the mineral-rich land.

The committee reported there were 3,002 confirmed Ebola cases with 1,974 confirmed deaths.

The World Health Organization said Friday they recorded 40 new cases of Ebola — the lowest weekly incidence of Ebola since March 2019 — but said it was unclear if this positive trend would continue.

How much funding has the U.S. provided?

“USAID reports that it has provided more than $136 million toward the Ebola response in the DRC since the outbreak began in August 2018, including an additional $38 million (including $15 million for WHO) that was announced by the agency on July 24.

“No estimate is available for the amount that CDC has spent on its Ebola response activities. The funding for both USAID and CDC, as well as for other U.S. agencies, in the response is not new funding; rather, it has been drawn from unspent FY 2015 emergency Ebola supplemental appropriations provided by Congress at the time of the West Africa Ebola outbreak.” Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, Aug 01, 2019

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MORE ON CONGO EBOLA OUTBREAK: 

  • More than 2,700 cases, including more than 1,800 deaths, have been reported to date in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), making it second only to the 2014-2015 West Africa outbreak that saw nearly 29,000 cases and claimed more than 11,300 lives. The outbreak has already lasted more than a year, having been first declared by the DRC Ministry of Health on August 1, 2018. Recently, three imported cases were reported in neighboring Uganda, and there are ongoing concerns about further cross-border spread outside the DRC.

 

  • On July 17, 2019, the WHO Director-General declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC), citing its duration and recent spread to populated areas (including a case in Goma, a large city bordering Rwanda) where risk of further transmission and potential to cross international borders is high. This was the fourth time the World Health Organization (WHO) had considered such a declaration, after declining to do so three previous times.

 

  • Although the DRC successfully contained previous Ebola outbreaks, multiple factors are contributing to sustained transmission and impeding the response this time including violence and insecurity in the affected areas, entrenched community mistrust of government and external responders, funding constraints, and a complex political and socioeconomic operating environment.

 

  • U.S. engagement has been limited compared to the 2014-2015 West Africa outbreak where the U.S. played a leading role and mobilized an unprecedented amount of funding and personnel. In contrast, the U.S. has chosen to play a more limited role in this outbreak due to a variety of factors, including improvements in the global capacity to respond to Ebola but also because of ongoing security challenges that have led the U.S. to restrict its personnel from working in the outbreak zone.

 

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with several other U.S. agencies, have provided technical and financial support to international response efforts in the DRC. In October 2018, USAID announced a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), which includes USAID and CDC staff, had been deployed to the DRC.

 

  • A major question for the U.S. government going forward is how much it will expand its technical and financial support for the Ebola response in the DRC, particularly in light of the PHEIC declaration and the lack of progress in interrupting transmission to date. Source: Kaiser Family Foundation