The World Health Organization (W.H.O) on Wednesday declared the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a public health emergency of international concern.
This is the second worst Ebola outbreak of all time, in DR Congo.
The decision to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern has come months after the WHO refused to do so despite appeals from health experts.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for countries to ‘take notice and redouble our efforts”.
He said it was time to “work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system”, for its people.
“Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances”, Mr. Tedros further said.
The decision was taken following the fourth meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee assessing the outbreak, at the UN in Geneva.
Tedros said “We all owe it to these responders – coming from not just WHO but also Government, partners and communities – to shoulder more of the burden”.
Public Health Emergency
The W.H.O defines Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) as, “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”.
This definition refers to a situation that is:
- Serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected.
- Carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border.
- May require immediate international action
The W.H.O in a statement “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 DRC and the world.”
So far, there have been more than 2,500 cases of infection.
Nearly 1,670 have died in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, where multiple armed groups and lack of local trust have hampered efforts to get the outbreak under control.