An emergency meeting at the World Health Organization in Geneva on Wednesday examined a nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A formal emergency was declared because of the “concerning geographic spread of the virus,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. But it stressed borders should not be closed and there should be no restrictions on travel or trade. The outbreak in the DRC has killed more than 1,600 people. About 12 new cases are being reported every day. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomed the move. Before today, the WHO has only declared a public health emergency four times since the International Health Regulations. It’s meant to draw countries’ immediate attention to use resources and stop the disease from spreading further across borders.
This is the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history and the first in a war zone. In June, the outbreak spread internationally for the first time, from the DRC into Uganda.The political instability in the region and flare-ups in violence have frequently interrupted the efforts of Ebola responders and led to more cases. Since January, there have been 198 attacks against healthcare workers or Ebola treatment facilities. At this time, in Congo, only those who come into direct contact with an Ebola patient and people who come into contact with them are vaccinated. The vaccine is 99% effective and more than 161,000 people have been given it.