Ebola in DR Congo declared a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’
An opportunity to raise awareness and prevent the virus from spreading any further
Geneva/Beni. 18 July 2019 – Medair recognises the declaration of the World Health Organization (WHO) on 17 July that the Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo is a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’, the highest level of alert that the WHO can raise. This is a sobering step in a difficult and complex outbreak, done to raise international awareness of the gravity of the situation. The declaration is also a call for neighbouring countries to continue preparing themselves for the possibility of spread.
“As Medair, we hope that WHO’s recent declaration brings necessary attention and support to the Ebola response efforts. Yet, we are concerned about possible implications on travel and business in the already struggling economic sectors in eastern DR Congo,” warns Constance Smith, Medair Deputy Country Director. “We sincerely hope that the world will follow the recommendation made by Professor Robert Steffen, chair of the Emergency Committee, asking states to not impose trade or travel restrictions.”
According to official figures, one year after the first cases were declared in August 2018, the disease has infected 2,512 people and killed 1,676 of them.
Many efforts have been made in recent months to improve the overall response and better engage communities affected by Ebola. “We praise the recent efforts to scale up the response with a more people-centred response,” says Dr Trina Helderman, Medair Senior Health Advisor. “But the burden remains very much on the entire Ebola response mechanism to approach communities with the respect and inclusion they have asked for.” Medair strongly encourages responders to continue aiming to improve the dialogue with communities to not only build trust, but to empower communities to contribute to the mitigation of this outbreak. “The hallmarks of an effective Ebola response remain the same, from infection prevention and control to surveillance to case management, but must be integrated into a community-centred strategy,” recalls Helderman.
Medair is responding to the outbreak in multiple affected areas in DR Congo. Helderman says: “Together with the other Ebola responders, our teams will continue to do everything they can to halt the spread of this deadly virus. We have no time to lose.”
Medair is an international humanitarian NGO that provides emergency relief and recovery services to families made vulnerable by natural disasters, conflicts, and other crises.
Medair has been implementing humanitarian projects in the DRC since 1996 to address the unmet needs of vulnerable, emergency-affected populations in the East of the country.
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For more information on the Medair’s Ebola response, watch our latest video here.