Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo say Dr. Oly Ilunga, former head of the Ministry of Health and its Ebola response, was taken into custody on Saturday as police sought to stop him from leaving the country through neighboring Brazzaville.
The former minister’s detention follows initial hearings on alleged financial mismanagement of the agency held earlier this month, according to Congolese news site Actualite CD.
Ilunga, above left, was in charge of the Ebola response until July, when he resigned at the request of President Felix Tshisekedi. The president established a new team to oversee the response led by Ebola expert Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum, but there was no public allegation against Ilunga at that time.
The DR Congo’s Ebola crisis has claimed 2,085 lives, according to the most recent numbers released by the ministry on Friday. There is a total of 3,113 Ebola cases – with 3,002 of them confirmed – across 31 health zones in three eastern provinces.
The Ebola response in the affected provinces of North and South Kivu and Ituri has been hampered by security challenges in a region where armed rebels have operated for decades, and where community mistrust has made controlling the outbreak difficult for health workers.
The World Health Organization has warned repeatedly of the need for more funding to ensure that Ebola does not spread beyond the DR Congo’s borders or into other parts of the nation itself, but there was no prior indication of concern that funds were being misused.
Similar charges of misappropriation followed the West African outbreak, with millions missing in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Image: Congolese Ministry of Health file