Tuesday June 25, 2019
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Uganda Readies Itself To Fight Off Ebola From The DRC Border

A 2007 Ebola outbreak in Uganda, in the border town of Bundibugyo, infected 149 people

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Health workers walk with a boy suspected of having been infected with the Ebola virus, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, near Congo's border with Uganda. VOA

In Uganda, officials have stepped up measures to prevent an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola has infected 319 people in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo since August, killing 198. The border between the countries remains open, and health experts fear the virus will enter Uganda through the cross-border traffic.

The Lamia River marks the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola-infected North Kivu Province and Uganda.

Despite the deadly viral outbreak, Uganda’s Health Ministry says 20,000 people cross the border every week, putting the country at high risk.

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Congolese health workers register people and take their temperatures before they are vaccinated against Ebola in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

Ugandan Jane Biira goes to the DRC side at least twice a week to buy food and charcoal to sell back home.

“We have heard the disease is there but, we have to go out and trade. We are only a little scared, because we have never seen anyone fall ill with Ebola where we go. We buy the merchandise and leave.”

When Biira and others cross into Uganda they get checked at screening points by health care workers and volunteers, like Boaz Balimaka.

“We have the hand-washing, then disinfecting the feet, and screening, then we allow somebody to pass.”

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

While no Ebola cases have yet been detected in Uganda, it can take up to three weeks for symptoms to appear.

The virus causes a severe hemorrhagic fever that kills at least half the people who become infected.

Even with border screenings, Butogo Town Council head John Kandole says they worry someone with Ebola could slip through.

“Somebody who comes from Congo, we don’t shake with him with hands. Once he comes to buy anything, he buy and go. And the money sometimes we have been fearing to get.”

Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda
A World Health Organization (WHO) worker administers a vaccination during the launch of a campaign aimed at beating an outbreak of Ebola in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 21, 2018. VOA

Uganda’s Health Ministry is stepping up preventive measures by deploying an experimental Ebola vaccine for health care and front-line workers along the border.

Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s health minister, says vaccines are also on standy-by.

Also Read: Ebola Not a Global Health Emergency: WHO

“Currently, in Uganda we have 2,100 doses of the vaccine available at the National Medical Stores, and preparations are in high gear, including training of the health workers that are to be targeted.”

A 2007 Ebola outbreak in Uganda, in the border town of Bundibugyo, infected 149 people, killed 37, and took several weeks to be contained. (VOA)

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Mutombo, One of the Greatest Defensive Players in NBA, Records Ebola Messages to Persuade People to Take Precautions

Mutombo, regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history and a well-known philanthropist

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FILE - Former NBA player Dikembe Mutumbo reacts on the court during the second half of the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game between Wisconsin and Duke, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. VOA

Unable to send disease fighters to help battle one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, U.S. health officials are turning to basketball hall of famer Dikembe Mutombo for help.

Mutombo, regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history and a well-known philanthropist in his native Congo, recorded radio and video spots designed to persuade people to take precautions and get care that might stop the disease’s spread.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began posting the spots Monday on its YouTube channel and on the agency’s website . Officials are trying to get radio and TV stations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to air them.

More than 2,200 people have been reported ill — and about 1,500 have died — since an Ebola outbreak was declared in August in eastern Congo. It is the second deadliest outbreak of the lethal virus, which jumps from person to person quickly through close contact with bodily fluids.

Rebel attacks and community resistance have hurt Ebola response work in Congo. A World Health Organization doctor was killed in April, health centers have been attacked and armed groups have repeatedly threatened health workers. Because of safety concerns, the U.S. State Department last year ordered CDC disease specialists to stay out of the outbreak areas.

Mutombo, who moved to the U.S. in the 1980s intending to pursue a medical degree, told The Associated Press he understands where the distrust comes from.

Mutombo, NBA, Ebola
Unable to send disease fighters to help battle one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, U.S. health officials are turning to basketball hall of famer Dikembe Mutombo for help. Pixabay

“Someone who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t think like you, who is not from your village, who is from other places, just walk to your village with a nice beautiful white truck and telling you … ‘inject this chemical into your body to protect you from this deadly virus.’ That’s where there’s a fight. This is where we’re having a conflict,” he said.

“How do you that build trust? That’s the big problem we’re having in the Congo,” he said. “I believe as a son of Congo, I think my voice can be heard. Because everyone in the country knows my commitment to the humanity and the health.”

The idea for the PSA was sparked in February when Mutombo, a member of the CDC Foundation’s governing board who lives in Atlanta, was talking with Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director.

“We are deeply appreciative of his interest to try to get accurate information to the community,” Redfield said.

Also Read- Hundreds of Children Sustained in U.S. Border Detention Facility after Entering the Country without Authorization

Mutombo, who turns 53 on Tuesday, previously did public service announcements focused on polio and yellow fever. A dozen years ago, his foundation established a 300-bed hospital on the outskirts of his hometown of Kinshasa.

The new spots were recorded in Kiswahili, French and Lingala. They talk about recognizing the early signs of Ebola, early treatment and prevention measures. (VOA)