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Global support plea for Ebola crisis

Monday June 17th, 2019

An expert has criticised the decision not to declare the latest Ebola outbreak in Africa a global emergency.

The outbreak, which has been concentrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has become the second largest recorded Ebola outbreak.

The alarm has been raised after it spread beyond the DRC's borders into Uganda.

WHO advisers ruled over the weekend that the outbreak is a regional emergency – but not global.

They described it as an "extraordinary event" in which efforts to manage the outbreak have been hampered by repeated attacks by armed groups – leading to the deaths of health workers.

WHO had hoped to contain the outbreak using the new Ebola vaccine – and ring vaccination was due to begin on Saturday.

But Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said WHO had missed an opportunity to rally international support for the campaign to contain the virus.

He said: "Declaring this a public health emergency of international concern would have raised the levels of international political support which has been lacking to date, enhanced diplomatic, public health, security and logistic efforts as well as released more financial resources to support the incredibly brave and committed teams working in North Kivu, DRC.

“A step up in the response with full international support is critical if we’re to bring the epidemic to an end and ensure protection for the communities at risk. The response in DRC remains overstretched and underfunded. This needs to be championed at the highest political levels, including at the UN and upcoming G20. "

He added: “This epidemic is in a frightening phase and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. Uganda has done an amazing job preparing for spread across the border and as a result seems to have been able to identify the cases and prevented an outbreak. But we can anticipate more cases within North Kivu, elsewhere in DRC and potentially across the borders."

Speaking from the DRC, WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: "Although the outbreak does not at this time pose a global health threat, I want to emphasise that for the affected families and communities, this outbreak is very much an emergency.

"The spread of Ebola to Uganda is a new development, but the fundamental dynamics of the outbreak haven’t changed. We have the people, the tools, the knowledge, and the determination to end this outbreak.

"We need the sustained political commitment of all parties, so we can safely access and work with communities. We also need the international community to step up its financial commitment to ending the outbreak."

Tags: Africa | Flu & Viruses | World Health

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