So what if Ebola outbreak in DR Congo is a public health emergency?

Saturday July 20 2019

DRC Ebola patient

Health workers move a patient to a hospital after he was cleared of having Ebola inside an MSF-supported Ebola Treatment Centre in Butembo, DR Congo, on November 4, 2018. The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a public health emergency of international concern. PHOTO | JOHN WESSELS | AFP 

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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a public health emergency of international concern.

The declaration followed a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for ebola in the DRC.

The Committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DR Congo and the world.

This was the fourth meeting of the Emergency Committee since the outbreak was declared on August 1, 2018.

Back home, we know the government has allocated at least Rwf11.5 billion towards Ebola preparedness.

Indeed, in recent months we have seen the Ministry of Health proactive in not only raising awareness among the general public and also ensuring that health workers are well trained and prepared.


Due to cross-border movement, Rwanda is considered to be at high risk for Ebola, which has prompted the Ministry of Health to come up with the Ebola virus disease preparedness and response plan phase three, which will be implemented from July 1 through December this year.

This comes after the implementation phase one and two of the similar programme since August 2018. Specifically, phase one and two included: Establishment of a technical committee with six subgroups, the establishment of Public Health Operation Centre, development of technical documents.

This is in addition to capacity building, availability of awareness messages, airing awareness messages through various communication channels, development and approval of the protocol of immunisation and vaccination of about 80 per cent of front lines, establishment of temporary Ebola treatment centres, among others.

According to the State Minister for Public and Primary Healthcare Patrick Ndimubanzi, phase three money is to be spent in the next five months to facilitate access to vaccines, infection prevention control, bringing on board expertise, training different doctors about Ebola, among others.

He also noted that it was the last phase and it is a long-term plan.
However, now that Ebola has been officially declared a public health emergency of international concern, it is important to step up measures to co-ordinate ongoing efforts towards an effective response and contain in the unfortunate event of a confirmed case of Ebola.

For now, Rwanda has not reported any case of Ebola. This is a message that needs to be reinforced to avoid cases of misinformation and misreporting that may undermine the country’s strategic sector in particular tourism and conferences.

Perhaps more importantly, to make it clear that Rwanda is in a position to respond effectively. This calls for more sensitisation of the general public about the symptoms and how to best protect themselves.