AfricaCentral African Republic (CAR)Health & Fitness

11th Ebola Outbreak in Congo declare over, says WHO

By Oluwaseun Sonde

The World Health Organization WHO has declared the 11th Ebola Outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over through the responders who tirelessly tracked cases, provided treatment, engaged communities and vaccinated more than 40,000 people at the high risk, six months after the first cases were reported in Equateur Province.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti disclosed this on Wednesday, he said overcoming one of the world’s most dangerous pathogens in remote and hardly to access communities demonstrates what is possible when science and solidarity come together.

According to him, “The technology used to keep the Ebola vaccine at super-cold temperatures will be helpful when bringing a COVID-19 vaccine to Africa. Tackling Ebola in parallel with COVID-19 hasn’t been easy, but much of the expertise we’ve built in one disease is transferable to another and underlines the importance of investing in emergency preparedness and building local capacity.

“Vaccinators used an innovative cold chain storage to keep the Ebola vaccine at temperatures as low as -80 degrees Celsius. The ARKTEK freezers can keep vaccines at very low temperatures in the field for up to a week and enabled responders to vaccinate people in communities without electricity”, he said.

He added that outbreak took place in communities scattered across dense rain forests as well as crowded urban areas, creating logistical challenges. “These were surmounted due to the leadership of the government and local communities, supported by WHO and partners.

“Under the leadership of the DRC government, most responders were mobilized locally, and they moved quickly, despite important logistical and access difficulties. Vaccination efforts began just four days after the outbreak was declared. Around 90% of the vaccinators were from local communities. 

“The response also tapped into the expertise of local health workers trained during the two recent outbreaks in the DRC. Responders worked closely with community members to increase understanding of the virus by visiting more than 574 000 households and providing more than 3 million people with pertinent health and safety information”, he said.

He noted that at the height of the outbreak there were more than 100 WHO experts on the ground, supporting the government’s response. “While the 11th outbreak is over, there is a need for continued vigilance and maintaining strong surveillance as potential flare-ups are possible in the months to come.

“In this regard, WHO and other partners are currently conducting important actions for improving critical operational capacities in Equateur province, including training frontline workers. The end of this outbreak serves as a reminder that governments and partners must continue to focus attention on other emergencies, even as the fight against COVID-19 persists.

“There is a need for greater investment in strengthening the core capacities of countries in the implementation of the International Health Regulations. Enhancing preparedness will lead to improved response to threats arising from epidemic prone diseases and result in less social and economic impact”, he said.

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