WHO declares DRC’s Ebola outbreak a public health emergency of international concern
Written by: George Kalisa
Wednesday, July 17th, 2019, 8:27
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has today declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a public health emergency of international concern following technical advice based on Ebola’s geographical spread.
Making the declaration Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said that the world health body based its decision on the advice of The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola in DRC whose advice has a bearing on the recent spread of the Ebola virus in Uganda and Goma.
“As a result of this concern for potential further spread, the committee recommended that I declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and I have accepted that advice”.
This last Sunday a Pastor who had travelled to Butembo tested positive with Ebola and died on Monday. This sad news follows a similar incident of a Congolese woman with Ebola symptoms who had crossed the Uganda/DRC border to buy fish at a market on Uganda side died from Ebola on Friday. She had been “diagnosed with Ebola and treated in DRC”
WHO says about 2,500 people have been infected with Ebola virus while 1,665 have so far succumbed to the disease in the second largest Ebola outbreak in history .
But, Dr Tedros has added “Although there is no evidence yet of local transmission in either Goma or Uganda, these two events represent a concerning geographical expansion of the virus”
He has also stressed that WHO does not recommend travel restrictions despite a very high risk of spread in DRC and the region adding that the risk remained low beyond the region, a move that would encourage informal and unmonitored border crossings, increasing the potential for the spread of disease.
“In particular, I emphasize that WHO does not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade, which rather than stopping Ebola, can actually hamper the fight,” said Dr.Tedros.
“Closing borders could have disastrous consequences for the lives and livelihoods of the people who cross the border every day for trade, education or to visit relatives.
More than 75 million screenings for Ebola at border crossings and other checkpoints according to WHO records.
WHO is particularly grateful to the DRC government for sharing information pertaining to the deadly disease.
“The government of DRC is showing exceptional transparency in sharing information every single day. It was the DRC government which informed Uganda about the family with Ebola that crossed the border last month. It was the government of DRC that informed the international community immediately last week that there was a case in Goma,” said Dr. Tedros
He called for International support including finances and said DRC did everything within their reach.
“The government of DRC is doing everything it can. They need the support of the international community,” he added.
Meanwhile Uganda and Rwanda have stepped up preparedness and are on high alert. At the beginning of this week the Health Minister of Rwanda, Dr. Diane Gashumba spent ample hours in Rwanda’s border city of Rubavu which separates Rwanda and Eastern DRC where the sprawling city of Goma is located.
Rwanda's Health Minister Dr. Diane Gashumba (2nd left) during a step-up preparedness tour in Rubavu border city (PHOTO/Courtsey)