Joint statement by heads of agencies on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
“Tomorrow, 1 August, marks one year since the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) declared an outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in North Kivu province of the DRC. Two weeks ago, it was declared a public health emergency of international concern.
“Just yesterday, a new case of the disease was confirmed in Goma, with the patient later dying – the second case to be confirmed this month in the city of around 1 million people. This latest case in such a dense population centre underscores the very real risk of further disease transmission, perhaps beyond the country’s borders, and the very urgent need for a strengthened global response and increased donor investment.
“In the last year, there have been more than 2,600 confirmed cases, including more than 1,800 deaths in parts of Ituri and North Kivu provinces. Almost one in three ‘cases’ is a child. Every single ‘case’ is someone who has gone through an unimaginable ordeal. More than 770 have survived.
“The disease is relentless and devastating.
“Ebola passes from mother to child, husband to wife, patient to the caregiver, from the dead body of a victim to the mourning relative. The disease turns the most mundane aspects of everyday life upside down — hurting local businesses, preventing children from going to school and hampering vital and routine health services. It is primarily a health crisis, but one that also critically impacts how people care for their family, view their neighbours and interact with their community.
“The challenges of stopping further transmission are indeed considerable. But none are insurmountable. And none can be an excuse for not getting the job done. The United Nations and partners are continuing to ramp up the response in support of the Government and to further bolster joint action. The UN is working to ensure an enabling environment for the public health response that its health agency supports, including appropriate security, logistics, political and community engagement, and action to address the concerns of affected communities. We commend the recent Government decision to take measures to ensure its efforts are further joined up.
“We also salute the heroic efforts of the mostly Congolese healthcare workers on the front line, the people of affected communities and partners. Despite their ceaseless work, the disease continues to spread. This outbreak is occurring in an active conflict zone which makes an effective response far more complicated because of insecurity, including armed attacks on health workers and facilities, and population displacement. In some of the affected areas, violence is preventing us from reaching communities and working with them to stop further transmission.
“We call on all parties to the violence to ensure that responders can do their work safely and that those seeking care can access it without fear of attacks.
“We are proud of the work that we and our partners have done so far, collaborating with communities in support of the Government-led response to protect those at risk and care for those affected:
- Over 170,000 people vaccinated;
- 1,300 people treated with investigational therapies across 14 treatment and transit centres;
- 77 million screenings of national and international travellers;
- 20,000 contacts visited daily to ensure they do not also become sick;
- 3,000 samples tested in 8 laboratories every week;
- More than 10,000 handwashing sites installed in critical locations;
- More than 2,000 community engagement workers operating in affected – areas listening to concerns, gaining trust, and mobilizing local action;
- Over 440,000 patients and contacts provided with food assistance, crucial to limiting movement among people who could spread the disease; and
- Daily meals provided to 25,000 schoolchildren in Ebola-affected areas to help build trust within communities.
“Now we must build on those achievements, but to do so we urgently need far more support from the international community. The Government needs more support than ever before. The public health response to an Ebola outbreak requires an exceptional level of investment; 100 per cent of cases must be treated and 100 per cent of contacts must be traced and managed. We need air transport to get responders and critical equipment to some of the most remote areas and warehousing to safely store precious health supplies including vaccines. We will continue to accelerate our response, and we ask partners old and new to do the same.
“At this critical juncture, we reaffirm our collective commitment to the people of the DRC; we mourn for those we have lost, and we call for solidarity to end this outbreak.”
Statement from WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, and World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley