On Wednesday, at an emergency committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization (WHO) called the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo an international health emergency (AP, Al Jazeera). The declaration comes after a new victim of the disease was discovered in Goma, a city of two million people (AP). Previously, all cases of the deadly disease had been found in rural areas (AFP). WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the Goma case as a “game-changer” (AFP). The Goma patient, an evangelical priest, had traveled to Uganda while carrying the disease (AFP). He reportedly touched several Ebola patients and concealed his identity in order to evade disease screenings (AFP). Additionally, an infected fishmonger traveled to Uganda and Rwanda from Congo, vomiting multiple times at a Ugandan market days before passing away (Reuters 1).
The WHO defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that poses a risk to other countries and that necessitates an international response (AP). The designation often brings aid and international attention to the issue although Tedros said this was not its main purpose (AP). Tedros estimated however that “hundreds of millions of dollars” would be needed to stop the epidemic (AP).
Since being declared an outbreak in August of last year, the disease has infected almost two thousand people, and has killed more than two thirds of that (Al Jazeera, Reuters 2). However, the WHO has created a vaccine they estimate to be 99 percent effective in protecting from the disease for up to twelve months (Al Jazeera). There remain many obstacles to eradication of the disease, including distrust of emergency workers and foreigners (BBC).
Tags: Congo, Ebola, WHO, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ajisafe