Medicine

Global community urged to back Ebola response in DR Congo

Global community urged to back Ebola response in DR Congo

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 eradication.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Wednesday that the situation in the Central African country is undergoing "a concerning geographic expansion". An alert given after the death of the first case detected in a metropolis, Goma, the second largest city of the country at the crossroads of the Great Lakes.

Now that the outbreak has been declared a global health risk, it warrants a lot more attention and will receive additional assistance from health agencies around the world.

Instead, at risk countries were advised to increase level of preparedness and surveillance for quick detection of imported cases including mapping out health facilities and active surveillance with zero reporting.

A declaration of a global health emergency often brings greater worldwide attention and aid, along with concerns that nervous governments might overreact with border closures.

The emergency committee of worldwide health experts that advises the WHO had three times declined to declare an emergency - a rare designation aimed galvanising global support.

The latest death comes as an expert panel from the World Health Organisation (WHO) weighs whether or not to announce an worldwide emergency.

Latest UN figures showed that some 650 people have died in the current outbreak, while about 12 new cases are reported every day.

Some experts believe the emergency declaration for the Congo epidemic has been long overdue.

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"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." he said.

The Committee also advised that no country should close its borders or place any restrictions on travel and trade.

"Together with the government, we can and will end this outbreak".

The decision to issue a PHEIC declaration was made by an emergency committee that met in recent days.

"I am vaccinated and I protect myself against Ebola", said Zoe Kibwana, a 46-year-old shoe salesman who does business in Uganda, just 70km from Beni. Health care workers are often at risk. Some infected people have deliberately evaded health authorities.

World Health Organization has held off on making the emergency declaration on three previous occasions, but the confirmation of a case in North Kivu's capital Goma escalated the crisis.

This week a preacher with Ebola was identified after arriving by bus in Goma, a city of more than 2 million people. So what is the global health emergency?

The Goma patient has been described as an evangelical preacher who travelled to Goma from Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by Ebola.