The World Health Organisation (WHO), in a news conference in Geneva, declared a Global Health Emergency in the Democratic Republic Congo following the current Ebola outbreak. The Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is the highest level of alarm which has been used only four times before.
Since the outbreak of Ebola in August 2018, more than 2,512 cases have been reported in the region with more than two-thirds of them ending in death; about 1,600 deaths. The virus is prevalent in two provinces in DRC namely North Kivu and Ituri. In North Kivu, 676 deaths have been reported since the outbreak.
On July 14 th , the first case of Ebola in Goma was reported where a pastor died. Goma is on the border of DRC and Rwanda. However, the WHO said that the closing of borders is not necessary as it may
hinder the ending of the epidemic.
WHO Chief Tedros Adhanam Ghebreyesus during the news conference said, “It is time for the world to take notice and redouble the efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system.”
He added, “Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult
circumstances. We all owe it to the responders-coming from not just WHO but also the government, partners, and communities-to shoulder the burden.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies welcomed the decision. In a statement, it said, “While it does not change the reality on the ground for victims or partners engaged in the response, we hope it will bring the international attention that this crisis deserves.”
The move has also been seen as a way to encourage more donations from the international
community. This comes after the WHO estimated that it needed approximately $98 million to enable it to deal with the outbreak between February and July. However, WHO says it is short of $54 million because only half of the pledges have been made.
With 12 new cases reported daily, the outbreak is the second-largest outbreak since the outbreak in West Africa in 2014 which lead to more 28, 00 deaths. It took 224 days for the cases to reach 100 and only 71 days for the cases to reach 2000.
A vaccine, which was developed after the West Africa outbreak, is 99% effective but is only issued to people who come into direct contact with the victims. This leaves the majority of the population unvaccinated thus prone to the virus.
Measures to curb the spread of the virus have been hindered mainly by conflicts in the region which have seen over 198 attacks on health workers and Ebola treatment facilities. Seven deaths and 58 injuries have been reported this year. People also seem to distrust health workers hence failing to seek medical attention. This often leads to surprise attack such as the one reported in Uganda involving a 50-year-old woman and her 5-year-old grandson; the woman died.
By: Kinyanjui Wanjiku.