Sunlight shines on freshly dug graves in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Sunlight shines on freshly dug graves in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
A woman visits a sick relative kept inside an isolation cube at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
A woman visits a sick relative kept inside an isolation cube at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
A health worker rests at the end of his shift at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Congo. The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak an international emergency. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
A health worker rests at the end of his shift at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Congo. The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak an international emergency. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Travellers unload goods from a truck they rode into Beni, Congo, the epicentre of the current Ebola epidemic. Deep distrust and pernicious rumours - along with political instability and violence – are severely undermining efforts by public health authorities to trace and vaccinate those who may have come into contact with infected people. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Travellers unload goods from a truck they rode into Beni, Congo, the epicentre of the current Ebola epidemic. Deep distrust and pernicious rumours - along with political instability and violence – are severely undermining efforts by public health authorities to trace and vaccinate those who may have come into contact with infected people. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
A woman waits at the morgue for the body of her relative to be cleared for burial in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
A woman waits at the morgue for the body of her relative to be cleared for burial in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Red Cross workers carry the remains of 16-month-old Muhindo Kakinire from the morgue into a truck as health workers disinfect the area in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Red Cross workers carry the remains of 16-month-old Muhindo Kakinire from the morgue into a truck as health workers disinfect the area in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Congolese soldiers patrol the streets of Beni, Congo, the epicentre of the current Ebola epidemic. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Congolese soldiers patrol the streets of Beni, Congo, the epicentre of the current Ebola epidemic. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
A man carries wood on his bicycle as he rides past a cemetery in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
A man carries wood on his bicycle as he rides past a cemetery in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

Beni, Congo - They made their way through the thick forest like astronauts carrying a fallen comrade. Their booted steps were slow and deliberate as if they walked on the moon. A few men waited by a freshly dug grave, checking their smartphones. Without ceremony, the body of Mussa Kathembo was lowered into the ground.

Health workers wearing protective gear begin their shift at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

This is Beni, eastern Congo, epicentre of the latest affliction in this war-ravaged part of the world: Ebola. Kathembo was one of the more than 1 700 victims of the nearly year-long outbreak of the disease.

Rubber gloves and boots used by health workers treating Ebola patients are hung out to dry after being disinfected at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

Many people in the outbreak area do not believe Ebola exits. Unfamiliar with the disease, they blame witchcraft, politicians and foreigners for the deaths. That makes things difficult and dangerous for those working to contain the outbreak. And once someone is infected, it is often too late.

Congolese journalists broadcast an Ebola awareness program from a local radio station in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

When Kathembo fell ill he was taken from his house to the Ebola treatment center, a maze of white tents and plastic isolation pods on the grounds of Beni's hospital. As he and his wife, who also fell ill, received emergency treatment from health workers dressed head-to-toe in Hazmat suits, their house was quickly turned into a vaccination center by local health authorities and the World Health Organization.

Residents line up to be vaccinated against Ebola in Beni, Congo. Health experts agree the experimental Ebola vaccine has saved multitudes in Congo, but after nearly a year and some 171 000 doses given, the epidemic shows few signs of waning. Over 1700 have died from the disease. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

There, relatives, neighbors and anyone else who might have come into contact with the couple stood in line to receive the experimental but effective Ebola vaccine. Reaching everyone was the goal but tracing contacts is a challenge in Beni, where people are known to ride five to a motorcycle-taxi or squeeze 30 passengers into a 10-seat van.

A health worker wearing a protective suit walks out of an isolation cube after visiting a patient at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Health workers wearing protective gear carry a patient suspected of suffering from Ebola into an isolation cube at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Congo. More than 1 700 people in eastern Congo have died as the virus has spread in areas too dangerous for health teams to access. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP


Back at the treatment center, 24-year-old Ivette, a mother of four, slowly recovered from Ebola as she mourned the loss of her husband, Salomon.

Health workers wearing protective gear check on a patient isolated in a plastic cube at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Health workers treat 6-week-old Amani Musanga at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Congo. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

In a nearby isolation cube, Kathembo exhaled one last time. The heart monitor went silent and his body was wrapped in cloth and plastic before being taken to the cemetery in the forest outside town.

Health workers wearing protective gear check on Ivette Adania, 24, a mother of four whose husband died of Ebola, at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

Asiya, his wife, also died. But their 2-month-old daughter, Lahya, tested negative for Ebola and will survive.

Burial workers put on protective gear before carrying the remains of Mussa Kathembo, an Islamic scholar who had prayed over those who were sick, and his wife, Asiya, to their final resting place in Beni, Congo. Both died of Ebola. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Burial workers wearing protective gear carry the remains of Mussa Kathembo, an Islamic scholar who had prayed over those who were sick, in Beni, Congo. He died of Ebola. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Ismael Kasereka, 14, weeps at the funeral of his uncle and aunt, Mussa Kathembo and his wife, Asiya. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

AP