Congo battles fourth wave as vaccination rates remain low

The Congolese health care system is reeling from the effects of increased COVID-19 cases.

The St Joseph COVID Treatment Centre in Kinshasa, Congo has been hard hit by the COVID-19 fourth wave. The Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing a greater pressure on the health system than ever before during the pandemic. Patients are reportedly administered oxygen from old tanks, while the 38-bed treatment centre has only one un-occupied bed remaining. Tents are required to cope with the hospital overflow. The Congolese country has vaccinated 0.1% of its 90 million population, with less than 260,000 vaccines administered. Congo is currently the least vaccinated country in the world. Health officials reported that in the city of Goma, tents erected as vaccination centres have conducted no vaccinations for days at a time in the last seven months due to residents not showing up.

"We have experienced the three previous waves gradually, but in the fourth wave cases have jumped overnight," stated head of St Joseph, Francois Kajingulu. "On Monday we had 5-6 cases and on Saturday we went straight from 30 to 36." The increase in COVID-19 cases is widely experienced in Africa as mid-December saw an 83% spike in cases driven by the Delta and Omicron variants. The World Health Organization data shows that Congo reported 6,480 new cases mid-Dec, which is more than double of the cases reported during its previous record week in June. Though remote populations, rough terrain, vaccine uncertainty along with lack of funds have led to low vaccination numbers, the country is making efforts to ramp up vaccinations to limit the surge.