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WHO teams arrive in Mbandaka as DRC battles fresh ebola outbreak

head of the World Health Organisation – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Mbandaka, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  Nearly 50 staff from the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners have arrived in Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to tackle yet another outbreak of Ebola in the country.  

The responders carried 3,500 doses of Ebola vaccine and 2,000 cartridges for lab testing, according to the head of the World Health Organisation – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This is an important reminder that even as WHO focuses on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies,” he said.  

The Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka, located in Equateur province in northwest DRC – on the opposite side of the country to the worst epidemic in the country’s history that is petering out – was confirmed earlier this week. So far, eight cases have been detected, four of whom have died.  

The outbreak in Mbandaka marks the DRC’s eleventh face-off with the deadly disease, which was first discovered in the country in 1976 and is now endemic. The city also had a short outbreak from May to July 2018 in which 33 people died.  

The five latest Ebola victims, who included a 15-year-old girl, died between 18 – 30 May. But their deaths were only attributed to Ebola on Sunday following confirmation. Four other people who have contracted the virus – all of whom are contacts of the deceased – are receiving treatment.  

“The latest person confirmed with Ebola attended the burial of one of the first cases but was detected in the town of Bikoro, 150 kilometres away from Mbandaka. This means that two health zones are now affected,” said Tedros.  

Humanitarian agencies are now working in the affected communities by providing essential equipment, deploying community mobilizers, providing water and sanitation services, supporting orphans and other affected children, according to Edouard Beigbeder, the UN Children’s agency-UNICEF representative in the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) explained that new outbreaks of Ebola are expected in the DRC given the existence of the virus in animal reservoirs in many parts of the country. Although the new outbreak represents a challenge, WHO and its partners are up to the task, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director for Africa.  

Meanwhile, WHO reported that the Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC is in its final phases. On May 14, authorities began a 42-day countdown to declare its end. The outbreak began in August 2018 and has claimed more than 2,000 lives, while more than 1,000 people have survived the disease.

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