TURMOIL IN EASTERN CONGO PREVENTS FULL CRISIS RESPONSE TO EBOLA OUTBREAK
(Posted 12th June 2019)
Uganda’s Ministry of Health has confirmed a case of Ebola in the western Ugandan town of Bwera. The young victim is thought to have crossed over from Congo with his mother – a Congolese national married to a Ugandan – very recently in the company of other family members.
The 5 year old boychild was initially admitted in a Ugandan health facility before his symptoms prompted a rapid response by Ugandan and WHO health officials who then moved the victim and his family members to an isolation unit at the Bwera border crossing. The boy has since passed away.
Uganda has been a textbook case when responding to Ebola outbreaks, all thought to have been ‘imported’ across the often leaky borders along with Congo and South Sudan and even this latest outbreak was promptly dealt with, through isolation of suspected additional victims and the immediate search for others the affected family could have been in touch with.
Ugandan health personnel supported by WHO officials will tomorrow commence a precautionary vaccination activity in the affected area, using vaccines developed after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The outbreak of Ebola in Eastern Congo is thought to be the second biggest in history after the West African epidemic of a few years ago. The response, despite best efforts from very dedicated health personnel supported by foreign volunteers, has however been far from satisfactory as continued fighting in the region – a hotspot for decades – has impacted on the response and prevented the use of isolation units and more widespread vaccinations.
Both the Congo government and UN peace keeping forces in Eastern Congo have been unable to effectively deal with rebels and militias to provide health teams in Eastern Congo with the opportunity to more effectively combat the outbreak.
Tourism officials in Uganda have meanwhile reassured travelers that the likelihood of coming into contact with Ebola carriers is most unlikely and that every precaution is being taken by tour and safari operators, in conjunction with government, to ensure the safety of tourists in Uganda. The affected town and its immediate neighbourhood have been sealed off to prevent individuals from entering or leaving the zone.