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Ebola emergency declared

Thursday July 18th, 2019

Africa's latest Ebola outbreak is now a public health emergency of international concern, the World Health Organisation has declared.

The declaration came as efforts to control the outbreak stumbled amid the risk of the outbreak spilling into other countries.

WHO has been under pressure to declare an international emergency for some time but was prompted by the first case in the city of Goma, with a population of two million on the border of Rwanda. WHO said it was the gateway to the rest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the world.

WHO officials said they remained concern about the lack of funding for tackling the crisis from the rest of the world. It had been hoped that new vaccines would stem the latest outbreak – but turbulence and instability within the DRC has hampered programmes.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “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.

“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 government, partners and communities - to shoulder more of the burden.”

The decision was welcomed by the Wellcome Trust.

Dr Josie Golding, from Wellcome said: "As it moves into a second year this incredibly challenging epidemic shows no sign of stopping soon. Over 1,600 people have died already, with children accounting for around a third of cases. The teams in the DRC deserve all our thanks, respect and support.

"There is a grave risk of a major increase in numbers or spread to new locations – as we’ve seen this week in Goma, again in Uganda and recently close to the border of South Sudan.

“This is perhaps the most complicated epidemic the world has ever had to face, yet still the response in the DRC remains overstretched and underfunded."

Laura Miller, from Mercy Corps, said: "We hope that today's PHEIC declaration by the WHO will translate into urgent and practical action, including more funding from international donors.

"Every day, women, men and children are dying of the Ebola virus and it is becoming too easy to forget that the ever-climbing case numbers are people."

Tags: Flu & Viruses | World Health

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