Saturday July 20, 2019

Ebola Epidemic Hampers Global Health due to Lack of Funds

WHO reports it needs $98 million through July, but is running a shortfall of $54 million

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People crossing the border have their temperature taken to check for symptoms of Ebola, at the border crossing near Kasindi, eastern Congo, June 12, 2019, just across from the Ugandan town of Bwera. VOA

An emergency meeting convened by the World Health Organization has decided the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern.  However, the expert committee warns lack of funding threatens to hamper the ability to contain the deadly virus.

More than 1,400 people have died from Ebola in eastern DR Congo and more than 2,100 are infected with this fatal disease.  This makes the epidemic in conflict-ridden North Kivu province the second largest after the West African outbreak in 2014, which killed some 11,300 people.

The recent spread of the Ebola virus into neighboring Uganda and deaths of two people prompted the World Health Organization to gather a group of experts to reassess the current situation and challenges ahead.

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People coming from Congo have their temperature measured to screen for symptoms of Ebola, at the Mpondwe border crossing with Congo, in western Uganda, June 14, 2019. VOA

However, despite the grim tally and uncertain outlook, Acting Chair of the Emergency Committee, Preben Aavitsland, says the committee agrees the outbreak is a health emergency in the DRC and in the region, but poses a very low risk to countries outside the region.   Indeed, he warns of serious consequences for the DRC by declaring the outbreak a global emergency.

“We risk to see restrictions on travel and trade.  We risk to see airlines stopping their flights to the area,” said Aavitsland. “And, we also risk border closures or restrictive measures at border that could severely harm the economy in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Aavitsland says the committee decided there was little to gain, but much to lose by declaring the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

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FILE- An Ebola health worker is seen at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo, April 16, 2019. VOA

He says the most serious issue facing the Ebola operation is lack of international support.  He says WHO and the affected countries have not received the funding and resources needed to bring the epidemic to an end.

ALSO READ: WHO Says Ebola Outbreak Not a Public Health Emergency Despite its Spread from Congo to Uganda

He warns lack of funding is hampering preparedness efforts in Uganda and other countries neighboring the DRC.  And, this, he warns increases their vulnerability to the potential spread of the virus.

WHO reports it needs $98 million through July, but is running a shortfall of $54 million.  It is calling on the international community to step up and fill this gap as soon as possible. (VOA)

Next Story

Children Under Five at Higher Risk of Ebola Outbreak; Represent One-third of Current Total Cases

The World Health Organization reports more than 2,500 cases of Ebola in eastern Congo, including nearly 1,670 deaths. 750 of those cases are children

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FILE - A woman and her children wait to receive Ebola vaccinations, in the village of Mabalako, in eastern Congo, June 17, 2019. VOA

The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is affecting more children than normal.  The United Nations Children’s Fund says kids represent nearly one-third of current total cases, compared to about 20 percent in previous outbreaks.

The World Health Organization reports more than 2,500 cases of Ebola in eastern Congo, including nearly 1,670 deaths. The U.N. Children’s Fund says about 750 of those cases are children.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says children under age five are especially hard hit, and account for 40 percent of infections.  She notes an exceptionally high number of children are succumbing to the virus.

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FILE – Mwamini Kahindo, an Ebola survivor working as a caregiver to babies who are confirmed Ebola cases, holds an infant outside the red zone at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, DRC, March 25, 2019. VOA

“The case fatality ratio or the number of cases who die among this group of under-fives is 77 percent.  That is compared with 67 percent among the general population, which means that young children are at higher risk than adults,” she said.

Mercado says Ebola affects children very differently from adults.  Consequently, she says they need specialized care, both medically and psychologically.

She says children infected with Ebola receive the same drugs as adults, but they require smaller dosages. She says they also require treatment for diarrhea, against intestinal parasites and special nutritional feeding.

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A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019 in Goma. VOA

She says children who are separated from their parents or orphaned from Ebola need longer term psycho-social care and support to help them get over their loss.

ALSO READ: WHO: Rise of Ebola Epidemic in DRC’s Goma Could be a ‘Game Changer’

“Virtually all of them need help to counter the debilitating effects of stigma and discrimination that taints children affected by Ebola.   They need to be accepted, valued and loved by their families and communities,” she said.

ln Congo, Mercado says dedicated pediatricians provide special medical care for children in Ebola treatment centers.  She says every child is assigned a dependable caregiver who also is an Ebola survivor and therefore immune to the disease. (VOA)