WHO seeks greater action against DRC Ebola epidemic

Ebola Volunteers
File photo of health workers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for more collaborative efforts from its partners to effectively address the ongoing Ebola Virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Since last year, DRC has been witnessing an outbreak of Ebola disease. As at the last count by the international agency on August 27, there have been 2,997 cases of Ebola, with 1,998 deaths and 893 survivors.

“Most of the cases are in North Kivu province. In the past 10 weeks, an average of 80 people per week is sickened by the virus,” the agency said.

Call for action

The health agency said with the cases reaching 3,000, there is a need for partners to increase their presence on the field to address one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world.

As of July, WHO had declared the outbreak as a Public Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

Despite access to an experimental vaccine and developmental treatment, the outbreak is the second deadliest on record after the West African 2013 to 2016 epidemic which killed more than 11,300 people.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said the declaration was the result of the continuous spread and unsuccessful effort to contain the disease in the DRC.

Mr Ghebreyesus said: “Our commitment to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is that we will work alongside them to stop the Ebola outbreak.

“Our commitment also means strengthening health systems to give them all the other things they need. Building strong systems is what will protect people, communities and the world.”

Other challenges

Aside from the Ebola outbreak, DRC is also facing other challenges.

With a population of about 80 million, the country has more than four million displaced people. It is also home to the world’s second-largest food crisis with about 13 million people food insecure.

WHO said since January, there have been outbreaks of cholera (15,331 cases, 287 deaths), measles (161,397 cases, 3,117 deaths) and malaria, the leading cause of death in the DRC, which kills more than 48,000 people every year.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, who will be accompanying Mr Ghebreyesus and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the country this weekend, said they are “working in an incredibly complex environment, but thanks to support from donors and actions taken by the Ministry of Health, WHO and partners, we have saved thousands of lives,”

Ms Moeti said they are striving towards a much more united approach and called on NGOs and UN partners to continue to accelerate all activities.

“Everyone has a role to play and we each must be accountable for what we signed up to do, only then will we end this outbreak,” she said.

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Vaccines and medication

So far, science seems to have been advancing from the outbreak as vaccines and new medications have been innovated to tackle the situation.

WHO said more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated against Ebola in the DRC, along with health and frontline workers in Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.

Two therapeutic treatments are also being used in the country as part of clinical trial and this can save 9 of 10 lives if used at the right time.

Also, more than one million screenings within the country and at international borders have helped control the spread, by identifying and providing care to anyone with symptoms.

Despite some cases being reported in neighbouring countries, by people who had crossed from DRC, WHO said regional preparedness will remain key to curbing the spread of the disease.


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