AROUND AFRICA: U.N. Health Agency Declares International Ebola Emergency

July 18, 2019 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

Global Health Emergency in DR Congo.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern.”

MAP-DR Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo (CIA World Factbook)

The public health emergency provision, announced in Geneva July 17, is the highest level of alarm the WHO can sound and has only been used four times previously. But the organization stopped short of saying borders should be closed, saying the risk of the disease spreading outside the region was not high, the BBC reported.

The outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has killed more than 1,600 people, according to the latest WHO report, which noted a confirmed case of Ebola virus disease was reported in Goma, a city of two million inhabitants close to the Rwandan border.

WHAT IS EBOLA?

ebola_virus_virion

Ebola is a virus that initially causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat. It progresses to vomiting, diarrhea and both internal and external bleeding. Infection is caused by direct contact through broken skin — or the mouth and nose — with the blood, vomit, feces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.

Critics have said the emergency declaration was long overdue. A WHO expert committee declined three times previously o advise the United Nations agency to make the declaration for this outbreak, even though other experts say it has long met the required conditions, the Associated Press reported.

While the risk of regional spread remains high, the risk outside the region remains low, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said after the announcement in Geneva.

The international emergency “should not be used to stigmatize or penalize the very people who are most in need of our help,” he said. Tedros insisted that the declaration was not made to raise more money — even though WHO estimated “hundreds of millions” of dollars would be needed to stop the epidemic, according to AP.

The U.S. Agency for International Development applauded the WHO decision and said agency officials would “continue to scale up life-saving support” to end the outbreak.

WHO Ebola vaccination team in Butembo.

Over 160,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been vaccinated against Ebola at facilities like this one in Butembo. (WHO photo)

It was the fifth such declaration in history. Previous emergencies were declared for the devastating 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, the emergence of Zika in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic and polio.

The current outbreak has raged for a year. The virus flared up in spots where it had once been contained and the epidemic hot zone has geographically expanded in northeastern Congo near Rwanda and into Uganda, the New York Times noted.

Violence against health workers has been a constant worry, and intensified after two Congolese workers were killed in their homes last week in Beni, a city in northeast DRC close to the world famous Virunga National Park near the border with Uganda.

Entry filed under: Africa, Disaster Relief, International Relief, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Technology. Tags: , , , , , .

FRIDAY FOTO (July 12, 2019) FRIDAY FOTO (July 19, 2019)

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