UN working ‘intensively’ to stop Ebola in eastern DR Congo, following second case in major border town

UNICEF/Vincent Tremeau A health worker checks a child potentially infected with Ebola being carried on the back of a caregiver at the Ebola Treatment Centre of Beni, North-Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo. (24 March 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Senior UN officials tasked with controlling the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have responded to Tuesday’s confirmation of a second case of Ebola in Goma, a major trading town in the vast country’s restive east, near the border with neighbouring Rwanda, which resulted in the death of the patient.

On Wednesday, David Gressley, the UN Ebola Emergency Response Coordinator, and Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall, Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response at the World Health Organization (WHO), released a joint statement announcing that they are “working intensively” to halt any further spread.

Surveillance is being stepped up at all entry and exit points in the area, but more needs to be done to eradicate Ebola, the officials said, calling for a “strong, resilient health system” to avoid a resurgence of the disease in DRC.

The senior officials stated that there is no evidence that the second case in Goma is linked to the first confirmed case. The first concerned a pastor who travelled to Goma from Butembo in North Kivu. The second is a miner who had been working in Ituri. The disease is centred in both provinces.

The reports of the second case of Ebola come a day after the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said that it needs to trip its budget to tackle the complex crisis, which is complicated by ongoing conflict, and an outbreak of measles.

On Friday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that, over the next six months, it is planning to scale up and double food assistance to people affected by the disease, in preparation for a potential further escalation of the epidemic.

The WFP support is for 440,000 “Ebola-affected” people in DRC, which includes contacts of victims and their families, as well as confirmed and suspected cases.

Senior UN officials mark one year since Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC

The discovery of this new case comes just ahead of the marking tomorrow, 1 August, of one year since the Government of the DRC declared an outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in North Kivu province. Two weeks ago, it was declared a public health emergency of international concern.

“This latest case in such a dense population center underscores the very real risk of further disease transmission, perhaps beyond the country’s borders, and the very urgent need for a strengthened global response and increased donor investment,” said top officials from the WFP, WHO, UNICEF and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In the last year, there have been more than 2,600 confirmed cases, including more than 1,800 deaths in parts of Ituri and North Kivu provinces. Almost one in three ‘cases’ is a child. Every single ‘case’ is someone who has gone through an unimaginable ordeal. More than 770 have survived.

“The disease is relentless and devastating,” said a joint statement from WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, and WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“The challenges to stopping further transmission are indeed considerable. But none are insurmountable. And none can be an excuse for not getting the job done. The United Nations and partners are continuing to ramp up the response in support of the Government and to further bolster joint action, the UN leaders said.

Efforts carried out by UN and parters to support Government-led response

  • Over 170,000 people vaccinated;
  • 1,300 people treated with investigational therapies across 14 treatment and transit centres;
  • 77 million screenings of national and international travelers;
  • 20,000 contacts visited daily to ensure they do not also become sick;
  • 3,000 samples tested in 8 laboratories every week;
  • More than 10,000 handwashing sites installed in critical locations;
  • More than 2,000 community engagement workers operating in affected – areas listening to concerns, gaining trust, and mobilizing local action;
  • Over 440,000 patients and contacts provided with food assistance, crucial to limiting movement among people who could spread the disease; and
  • Daily meals provided to 25,000 schoolchildren in Ebola-affected areas to help build trust within communities.

Full statement here.

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