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WHO declares Ebola outbreak in Congo a global emergency

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THE World Health Organisation(WHO) has declared Ebola virus disease (EVD) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) after the virus keeps spreading in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The decision was reached at the  4th meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the DRC held in Geneva, Switzerland.

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system” said Tedros Adhanom, WHO director-general.

Adhanom said extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances.

“We all owe it to these responders –coming from not just WHO but also the government, partners and communities — to shoulder more of the burden,” he added.

Ebola outbreak was declared in Congo in August 2018 and the outbreak has killed over 1,600 people in the country.

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There have been an increase in the rate of victims in 2019 with about 12 new cases  being reported every day.

The WHO decision was spurred after the disease was detected in Goma this week. Goma is home to two million people in Congo and on the border with Rwanda.

It is also recognised as the gateway to Congo and the rest of the world.

Last month, a case of Ebola was reported in Uganda where two people were confirmed dead.

WHO had called a meeting to decide if it deemed a global burden. But after the emergency meeting on June 14, WHO said the situation was not a public concern.

“It was the view of the Committee that the outbreak is a health emergency in DRC and the region but does not meet all the three criteria for a PHEIC under the IHR,” WHO had concluded in June.

But the conclusion was reversed on Wednesday when Adhanom announced that the outbreak has been classified as a level 3 – the most serious – emergency globally.

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However, WHO  said the transport routes and the border of the communities affected should not be closed.

“It is essential to avoid the punitive economic consequences of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities,” it noted

“It is important that the world follows these recommendations. It is also crucial that states do not use the PHEIC as an excuse to impose trade or travel restrictions, which would have a negative impact on the response and on the lives and livelihoods of people in the region,” said Professor Robert Steffen, chair of the Emergency Committee.

 The WHO also complained that it has insufficient money to tackle the problem.

There is a vaccine for ebola but in Congo, not everybody is vaccinated.

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