The Congolese minister for Health resigned today after President Félix Tshisekedi announced on Saturday that he would henceforth be responsible for coordinating the fight against the Ebola epidemic in his country. In one year, more than 1,700 people were killed in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Thisekedi announced on Saturday that he has appointed a team of experts to supervise the fight against the epidemic under his supervision. Minister Oly Ilunga announced today that he feels he has been misunderstood by the President’s decision. “I draw my conclusions from your decision to place the response to the Ebola epidemic under your direct control and believe that your decision will inevitably lead to a harmful cacophony. That is why I am offering my resignation as Minister of Health,” he wrote in a letter today.
“As in any war, because that is what this battle is all about, there can be no more than one decision-making center not to create confusion,” the doctor said.
“The Ebola crisis is not a humanitarian crisis. It is a public health crisis that is taking place in an environment characterized by safety issues,” says the doctor. He also strongly condemns the pressure being put on various sides to turn it into a humanitarian crisis, so that a parallel system is set up that does not strengthen the existing health system.
The minister also expresses his opposition to the rollout of a new experimental Ebola vaccine from the Belgian Janssen Pharmaceutica. “It is an illusion that a new vaccine (with two doses with a 56-day interval) that is offered by actors with a manifest lack of ethical values and that intentionally does not pass on information to health authorities will have a decisive influence control of the current epidemic,” he writes, without giving any further explanation.
Ilunga came to Belgium at the age of 13, studied at the UCL and was until 2017 CEO and medical director of the Europe hospitals in Brussels. He also cared for former President Etienne Thisekedi when he was in the country between August 2014 and July 2016 for medical reasons.
Only last week did the World Health Organization declare an international-scale emergency in eastern Congo due to the epidemic. Since August 1 last year, 1,737 people have died from Ebola, especially in the Beni region of Butembo, in North Kivu, the Ministry of Health said yesterday.