Covid-19 response in trouble as Nobel laureate Dr Mukwege resigns from response team.
Nobel Peace laureate Dr Denis Mukwege quits as head of a local task force fighting Covid-19 in eastern DRC in frustration at the government’s response to the crisis. He said a lack of coordinated action had crippled his work.
Mukwege, a DR Congo gynaecologist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work against sexual violence in war, was appointed on March 30 to lead a committee in South Kivu province. Two months into his job as vice-president of a special health commission set up to fight Covid-19 in South Kivu province, Denis Mukwege called it a day on Wednesday, blaming organisational problems.
In a statement, he cited “weaknesses in organisation and clarity between the various teams in charge of the response to the pandemic in South Kivu” in the government’s response.
Mukwege said that it took more than two weeks to get coronavirus test results from the national reference lab in Kinshasa, which was a “major handicap for our strategy based on testing, identifying, isolating and treating”. For Mukwege, it’s a little too late. He wants the government to shift its focus away from prevention to treatment.
His sound of alarm so far appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Mukwege said many prevention measures were being ignored and that thousands of citizens were returning from neighbouring countries without being quarantined.
While declaring that “I cannot dirty my Nobel Peace Prize for money”, his resignation from the special health commission could strike a blow to the entire national response team led by Dr Jean-Jacques Muyembe, another renowned medical researcher in DRC.
The country has more than 4,515 cases of Covid-19, and new infections have risen sharply in 10 of the 26 provinces. At least 98 people have died.
“I have decided to resign…in order to devote myself entirely to my medical duties and to treat the influx of patients at Panzi hospital,” Mukwege said, referring to the now famous care facility where he treats abused women from the Congolese civil war.
However, Dr Mukwege said he would continue to give his “intellectual contribution in the fight against the pandemic in the province of South Kivu.”
Muyembe told local media on Monday that “when the virus spreads to several provinces, it will be a serious problem.”
Dr Mukwege concludes by saying that “we had been ordered to declare any illness to be coranavirus and any death.
In addition, the thing that displeased me is that, after more than 100 samples none came out positive. I have a career to protect and I am Congolese by blood. Getting rich by lying is a sin before God, I quit.”