Since the outbreak of the Ebola Zaire Virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 1 August 2018, neighbouring African states have been ramping up prevention and awareness campaigns in hopes of keeping the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) from spreading to the Ugandan, Rwandan, and South Sudanese populations.
One factor affecting the Ebola preparedness operations, specifically in Uganda, is the number of refugees and migrant groups travelling in the region, which increases the risk of disease spreading. Conflict in neighbouring regions of South Sudan and DRC has resulted in increased displacement of individuals moving into Uganda. The World Food Program (WFP) reports that Uganda is now the third largest refugee hosting country in the world, with 1.1 million refugees living in settlements across the country. Of that 1.1 million, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports 785,104 from South Sudan, 284,265 from DRC, 33,657 from Burundi, and 51,326 from Somalia, Rwanda and other countries.
Following the outbreak in the DRC, the WFP has been working with Ebola case management subcommittees, UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ugandan Ministry of Health (MoH) to increase Ebola prevention awareness among refugees and host communities. This includes displaying posters at food assistance centres, broadcasting spot messages through local radio stations, distributing Ebola preparedness packages to local school districts, household visits, and community meetings. Awareness for migrant populations is largely targeted towards the settlement areas of Kyaka II and Kyangwali, refugee camps located in western Uganda.
Monitoring and screening of individuals at main refugee entry points, formal and informal border crossings in the high risk districts along the DRC-Uganda border, and all health facilities continues in an effort to remain vigilant to potential Ebola cases in Uganda. Alert cases continue to be identified and isolated with blood samples taken for testing to the Uganda Virus Research Institute.
As of 28 November 2018, the Ugandan MoH together with the WHO country office wish to reiterate that there are no confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda, and are working tirelessly to keep the country safe from the deadly disease.
Ebola in DRC Update
As of 27 November 2018, there have been a total of 422 cases of Ebola Zaire Virus – 375 of those confirmed, and 242 resulting in death. Women account for 60% of all confirmed cases. A total of 41 health workers have been infected to date, including 12 deaths. It is now being called the second worst Ebola outbreak in history, with conflict in the region placing increasing stress on humanitarian aid.
The DRC National Malaria Control Programme, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Global Fund and the United States President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) have began malaria vaccination campaigns. Mass drug administration and the distribution of insecticide treated mosquito-netting helps to aid in combating the spread of malaria. Malaria shares similar early symptoms with EVD, and greatly overburdens medical facilities and Ebola responders. Controlling a malaria outbreak will lessen the workload on already stretched Ebola Treatment Centres.
Political instability, violence, and population displacements have made the current Ebola outbreak one of the most complex and difficult public health challenges in recent history. DRC officials and aid organisations continue to work to control the outbreak in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, while neighbouring states remain on alert to protect their populations from the possible spread of EVD.
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Image ©UNHCR / F. Noy via Flickr