By Tsim Mavisi

With 54 cases of the Ebola virus being reported in Uganda, African countries are stepping up efforts to keep the disease at bay.

In a high-level meeting held in Kampala, Uganda, health ministers and government representatives from nine African countries adopted several resolutions to increase cross-border preparedness and response to the Ebola virus.

Among the measures endorsed by the officials from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda include contact tracing, information sharing, joint training of emergency responders, and carrying out simulation exercises to enhance preparedness and response. They also agreed on joint plans to carry out cross-border readiness including raising public awareness and conducting community engagement campaigns.

Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s Minister of Health emphasized the need for collaboration among countries to facilitate quick and efficient responses to health emergencies affecting the region. She further stated that Uganda has managed previous epidemics and has taken measures to limit the transmission of the disease.

Dr.Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa also emphasized the need for collaboration saying that it has been integral in the past success against the Ebola virus. She further expressed confidence that the joint effort agreed upon in the meeting will place Uganda and the region on the road to breaking Ebola’s grip.

Dr.Ahmed Ouma, acting director general of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasized the need for collaborative efforts in ensuring the health security of the Eastern Africa region and beyond.

He also urged countries to prepare and respond to the Ebola outbreak and other public health threats through resource sharing, increasing regional efforts to build the resilience capacity of human resources, and strengthening laboratory systems, surveillance, treatment, and care.

Uganda declared an outbreak of the Sudan ebolavirus on 20 September 2022, marking the first time this species – one of the six under the Ebolavirus genus – was detected in the country since 2012. As of 12 October 2022, the outbreak had affected five districts, 54 confirmed cases, and 19 deaths.

Though there is no effective vaccine against the Sudan Ebola virus that has been licensed yet, the Ugandan health authorities are focusing on supportive care for confirmed cases alongside stepping up testing, surveillance, infection prevention, and control, as well as collaborating with communities to support disease prevention measures.

With the intensifying response, more than a thousand contacts have been identified, while 20 people have recovered from the disease.