Inadequate funds are posing grave challenges towards containing Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in East Central Africa, which has already claimed more than 1,300 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone.
A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that nearly $100mn was needed to contain the deadly Ebola in Congo and Uganda as well as other susceptible nations, mainly in Africa.
It, however, regretted the availability of only less than one-third of the sum, leaving behind a shortfall of $54mn.
WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appealed for more funds to combat the ongoing Ebola flare-up, which has recorded more than 2,000 cases, including over 1,400 deaths, since it emerged in eastern DRC in August.
New cases over the last two months have increased at the fastest rate since the outbreak began last year, as aid agencies struggle to enact a public health response in areas that have suffered decades of neglect and conflict, with incredibly fragile health systems and regular outbreaks of deadly violence involving armed groups.
More than 1,600 people have been infected with the Ebola virus in the North Kivu region of DRC and more than 1,300 have died so far –majority being women and children. At least 10 months since the outbreak began, the numbers are rising steadily and the fatality rate is higher than in previous outbreaks, at about 67%.
Eastern Congo borders Rwanda and South Sudan as well as Uganda.
Experts had previously warned that if the virus crossed into a neighbouring country, it would represent a dramatic escalation of the crisis.
Ebola, which kills up to 90% of those infected, is transmitted through bodily fluids, making health workers including doctors and nurses particularly vulnerable to infection.
Ebola is a virus that initially causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat.
People are infected when they have direct contact through broken skin, or the mouth and nose, with the blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.
Doctors, aid workers and the government have been unable to contain the virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — a country in the midst of civil war.
WHO recently announced an expansion of the vaccination guidelines and the introduction of a second vaccine to try to protect people from Ebola. Experimental drugs have also been given to some 700 people, although nobody yet knows how successful they have been. But unless it is possible to reach affected communities with vaccines and drugs, the new technologies are useless.
An estimated 4.5mn people are currently displaced in the DRC, according to the International Rescue Committee. An estimate the put the number of people displaced was 4.9mn in 2017 alone. More than 20,400 peace keepers have also been deployed to the country.
Clearly, the world is not doing enough to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola disease. The response in DRC remains overstretched and underfunded.
Heightened response with full international involvement and support are critical if we are to bring the epidemic to an end and ensure protection for the communities at risk.
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