Saturday October 19, 2019

As Refugees Flee DR Congo, UN Steps Up to Reduce The Risk of Ebola

The UNHCR says refugees are at the same risk of contracting and transmitting the Ebola virus disease as local farmers, merchants, business people and others moving through the area.

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Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda
A Congolese health worker checks the temperature of a man before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

The U.N. refugee agency reports it is stepping up efforts to reduce the risk of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus as refugees flee DR Congo. Latest estimates put the number of confirmed and probable cases of Ebola in eastern DRC at 49, including 38 deaths.

The U.N. refugee agency is working closely with DRC authorities and other agencies on actions to contain Ebola on the national and regional level. But, its main focus is to monitor possible Ebola infections among refugees fleeing across the border, mainly to Uganda, from conflict ridden North Kivu and Ituri.

UNHCR spokesman, William Spindler says the number of newly arriving refugees into Uganda from these two Ebola affected provinces increased during July from 170 a day to 250 a day. He says the majority currently is crossing at the Kisoro border point.

A family sits outside in a neighborhood where three people died of Ebola last month, in Mbandaka, Congo, June 1, 2018. For the first time since the Ebola virus was identified more than 40 years ago, a vaccine has been dispatched to front line health workers.
A family sits outside in a neighborhood where three people died of Ebola last month, in Mbandaka, Congo,
VOA

“So UNHCR is working with WHO, UNICEF and other partners and with the Ministry of Health of Uganda to intensify screening for Ebola at all border entry points. And, additional health workers have been deployed in the border districts to improve response capacity,” he said.

Spindler notes the World Health Organization is not recommending any restriction on the movement of people. Therefore, he says UNHCR is urging countries neighboring DRC to allow refugees in need of protection to enter their territory and to include them into preparedness and response plans and activities.

Also Read: United Nations Security Council to Closse 13-year-old Haiti Peacekeeping Mission in October

The UNHCR says refugees are at the same risk of contracting and transmitting the Ebola virus disease as local farmers, merchants, business people and others moving through the area. Therefore, it urges governments and local communities not to adopt measures that single out refugees. Those measures may not be scientifically sound and will only serve to stigmatize and restrict refugees’ freedom of movement. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO Reports Progress in Containing Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next, said Ryan.

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WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo. VOA

The World Health Organization reports progress in containing the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but says many challenges to its elimination remain.  WHO reports the number of cases in the outbreak now stands at 3,207, including 2,144 deaths.

The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo.  But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over.

“It is not.  It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next,” said Ryan. “But… I do–I would stand over the fact that we have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographic area.  Now we have to kill the virus.  The problem is, it is back in areas that are deeply insecure.”

In fact, the virus has come full circle.  Ryan notes the disease has moved from Butembo and other urban areas to the remote, rural town of Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak.  He says the virus is back where it began when the Ebola outbreak was declared August 1, 2018.

WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over. Pixabay

“So, essentially the virus is back in the same zone,” said Ryan. “So, the factors that allowed that virus to transmit at low intensity for a number of months, have not changed.  Deep insecurity, reticence amongst the population, distrust and many other factors continue to make this a very dangerous situation.  But a situation, for which I believe we are making significant progress at this time.”

Ryan says WHO is increasing the scale of its operation, engaging in active surveillance across North Kivu province and actively seeking new cases and tracing contacts to keep the virus from spreading.

He says more than 230,000 people have been vaccinated against the deadly disease and more lives are being saved among people infected with the virus who are coming to the treatment centers.

He says the fatality rate among the nearly 800 patients currently in Ebola treatment units is less than one third – a significantly better outcome than the two-thirds fatality rate reported for the disease overall.

Also Read- One in Five People in Conflict-Affected Areas Live with Mental Health Condition

Still, this is the biggest Ebola outbreak in Africa since the epidemic across three West African countries in 2014 killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)