By Opija Raduk

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), has recently declared the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as an emergency.

Dr Adhanom affirmed Ebola in DRC as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The WHO director general, is appealing for the international community to help with funds. He however, assured that WHO is working on a new plan to control the epidemic which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” Dr Tedros said.

Dr Tedros clarified: “Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders, coming from not just WHO but also government, partners and communities to shoulder more of the burden.”

Health workers inside a “CUBE” talk to an Ebola patient, while a nurse consults a chart outside. ALIMA Ebola Treatment Centre, Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The CUBE, or Biosecure Emergency Care Unit for Oubtreaks is a self-contained and easily transportable system for outbreaks of highly-infectious disease. The CUBE, developed by ALIMA is being used in the ongoing Ebola response in DRC.

Dr Tedros has made previous appeals for donors to provide the money they have promised. So far, only half of the pledges have come in.

The WHO was not aware of any donor who has withheld funding because an emergency had not been declared, he said, “but if that was the excuse, it can no longer be used.”

This declaration follows a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for EVD in the DRC. The Committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma.

Goma is a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The Emergency Committee has expressed disappointment about delays in funding which have constrained the response. They also reinforced the need to protect livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak, by keeping transport routes and borders open.

This is essential to avoid the punitive economic consequences of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities.

“It is important that the world follows these recommendations. It is also crucial that states do not use the PHEIC as an excuse to impose trade or travel restrictions, which would have a negative impact on the response and on the lives and livelihoods of people in the region,” explained Professor Robert Steffen, chair of the Emergency Committee.

The current outbreak is the second biggest Ebola outbreak, after the west Africa epidemic, where 28,616 cases of disease and 11,310 deaths were reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016.

Since it was declared almost a year ago, the outbreak has been classified as a level 3 emergency, the most serious, by WHO, triggering the highest level of mobilization from WHO.

The UN has also recognized the seriousness of the emergency by activating the Humanitarian System-wide Scale-Up to support the Ebola response.

With Ebola taking hold of most countries in Africa, the situation could worsen if it is not well taken care of. This is because with current outbreak of Ebola on the increase, the cases might get out of hands.

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