The deadly Ebola epidemic raging in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo should end within six months, the head of the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
Seven months after the epidemic broke out in the North Kivu province devastated by violence, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that there were clear signs that the spread of the virus was "contracting".
"Our goal is to finish it in the next six months," he told reporters in Geneva, but warned that unrest had increased in the affected area could reverse the progress made.
"It is always good to plan beyond the horizon to prepare for any eventuality," he said, while expressing optimism that the massive efforts to curb the epidemic are working. [1
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He declared 584 lives on nearly 1,000 believed to be infected, according to the WHO.
Security in eastern DRC, a rampant region with rebel fighters, has dramatically complicated the response, with numerous attacks on Ebola treatment centers.
The charitable organization of Doctors Without Borders has also raised the alarm on increasingly "toxic" relationships with local communities, whose resistance to Ebola's response efforts has also fueled the spread.  MSF pointed out that 40% of extremely contagious virus deaths occur in communities rather than Ebola treatment centers.
– "Contract" –
"The Ebola response fails to keep the epidemic in check," MSF chief Joanne Lieu told reporters in Geneva last week.
But Tedros denied Thursday that this was the case.
"That's not true," he said. "You cannot say that it is failing when the epidemic is contracting.
He pointed out that in the last seven months the virus had been contained in North Kivu and Ituri.
" It has not spread to other parts of the country and not spread to neighboring countries, "he said, adding that the broadcast was stopped in a number of places, including Beni and Mangina.
" So the cases are shrinking in some areas geographic ", he said.
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Tedros also pointed out that the number of new cases was cut in half from January, with an average of 25 new cases reported every week now compared to 50 at the beginning of the year.
He acknowledged, however, that the violence, the unrest and resistance of the community remained a challenge especially in Butembo, c he along with Katwa is where the spread of the virus is now concentrated.
"I do not" I want to undermine the risk, because it could again (resurrect) if the security situation continues to deteriorate, "he said, recognizing that there is still a possibility that Ebola may spread to other parts of the DRC and neighboring countries.