Thursday December 12, 2019

UN Aims to Double Food Rations for Thousands of People Affected by Ebola Virus in DRC

Verhoosel says people who have been infected by the Ebola virus and who have recovered, will receive food rations for one year

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

The U.N. World Food Program says it plans to double food rations to assist 440,000 people affected by the Ebola virus and their contacts over the next six months to respond to escalating needs in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The dramatic scale-up of food assistance is aimed at providing essential nutritional support to thousands of people affected by the Ebola virus. Recipients will receive food for 28 days.  This is one week longer than the 21-day incubation period, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms.

The World Food Program says the operation also will allow agencies working to contain  the deadly virus to keep tabs on the health situation of contacts of victims and their families, as well as of confirmed and suspected cases.

WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel explains beneficiaries of this expanded program will be required to come to specific distribution sites every week to pick up their food rations. That help us and that help WHO and the Government to have those people coming to the health centers where they receive the food.” he said.  “And, when they receive the food the health team can make the medical check needed in that 21 days period.”

ebola, food rations
FILE – A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a child at the Himbi Health Centre in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 17, 2019. VOA

Verhoosel says people who have been infected by the Ebola virus and who have recovered, will receive food rations for one year. The WFP spokesman says the operation is running into some problems of acceptance because of community mistrust.  He says people affected by Ebola often are stigmatized by their neighbors and some beneficiaries have been threatened because they are seen as posing risks to the community.

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To encourage community cooperation, he says WFP is planning to quadruple the number of primary schools in Ebola-affected areas that will receive nutritious hot lunches.  He says chronic malnutrition is rife in this area, and for many children this is the main or only meal of the day.  He says the number of children slated to receive school meals will rise from 17,000 to 70,000.

Verhoosel says WFP urgently needs $50 million over the next six months to carry out its operation in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces, as well as in neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. (VOA)

Next Story

Researchers in Uganda Launch Ebola Vaccine Trial for Two Years

The new vaccine is manufactured by U.S.-based Janssen and Janssen company

ebola vaccine
FILE - A Ugandan health worker prepares to administer the Ebola vaccine to a man in Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kasese district, Uganda, June 16, 2019. VOA

Eight hundred health workers involved in the fight against the Ebola virus are receiving doses of a two-part vaccine. Researchers who launched a trial this week for a new Ebola vaccine say the new vaccine trial will take two years to complete.

Dr. Juliet Mwanga, director of the Mbarara Research Center, said the vaccine combines antigen — a substance that induces an immune response in the body — from the Ebola virus, a common adenovirus, and the vaccinia Ankara vaccine. The new vaccine is manufactured by U.S.-based Janssen and Janssen company.

“This J and J vaccine aims at prevention — primary prevention before you have contact at all,” said Mwanga. “And the other difference, as I said, it has two parts. So, you’re given the first dose, and 56 days later, you get another dose, which boosts your immunity. So, hopefully it works for a longer time.”

Deo Bakulu has been washing his hands every chance he gets since Ebola reached eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s main city of Goma. VOA

Currently, Uganda is using an Ebola vaccine by the Merck pharmaceutical company, but Mwanga said they need to try out new vaccines, too. Uganda’s move is motivated by its proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 1,800 people have died from an Ebola outbreak that began a year ago.

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Dr. Kimton Opio, the coordinator of the trial, said the vaccine is being tested on 800 health care workers and front-line support workers who meet a few basic requirements. “Someone has to be 18 years and over,” he said. ” Then, of course, they have to be able to sign the  [consent] form. Then they must not have been vaccinated with Ebola before, or they must have not suffered from Ebola before.”

The researchers are hopeful the vaccine, if effective, will help Uganda and neighboring countries that have endured Ebola outbreaks. Uganda has seen no new cases of Ebola in recent weeks. But, health officials have been on high alert since June, when two adults and a five-year-old boy who had crossed into Uganda from the DRC died of the virus. (VOA)