Kinshasha – The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently witnessing its worst Ebola outbreak. Protesting the way the government has responded to the crisis, the Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga has resigned from his post. He has said that the government needs to take a more “humanitarian” approach to handle the crisis.
Last week the government decided that a committee under the president’s office, would be established and it would be responsible for responding to the Ebola outbreak. However, according to Kalenda, this decision is unconstitutional. While a second Ebola vaccine is under development, he said that the whole thing “lacked ethics”.
On Monday he sent a letter to President Felix Tshisekedi, saying, “Taking into account your decision to place the management of the Ebola response under your direct supervision, and in anticipation of the harmful cacophony that will inevitably result from this decision, I present my resignation.”
He also said in the letter that some unnamed “actors” have been pressurizing him to allow the use of the second vaccine. This vaccine has been backed by the WHO, with Johnson & Johnson as its manufacturers. The vaccine has been designed for the purposes of complementing a Merck treatment which has been administered to 170,000 people and proven to be effective.
While Johnson & Johnson has said that tests of the vaccine have been conducted on more than 6,000 volunteers, Kalenda still objects. He said 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”.
The Minister has been a student of medicine from Belgium. Over the past year, in the course of the outbreak, he worked closely with the WHO. He had been leading the response to the epidemic in the country.
The resignation comes at a very unfortunate time and increases the pressure on the government. The outbreak that began last year in August has claimed 1,737 lives until now with approximately 2,500 reported cases. These figures have made it the deadliest and longest outbreak since 2014-16 witnessed in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.