The fight against Ebola has been scaled up in the country after the World Health Organization (WHO) sounded an alarm over the outbreak. The global health body declared the disease an international health emergency after a case was confirmed in Goma, a densely populated eastern city that borders Rwanda.
“People traveling from Goma, including across the border into Rwanda, everyone’s being checked. So over the course of these outbreak, Congolese supported by international committees have tested over 70 million travelers,” said Peter Graaff, the director of World Health Organizations’ Emergency Operations.
The WHO once decided against declaring the outbreak a global emergency on three previous occasions, because it regarded risk of the disease spreading globally to be low. Yet the discovery of the case in Goma signaled a change: inside Goma lies an international airport, a place which some health experts describe as a gateway to the rest of the world.
President Felix Tshisekedi responded to the WHO declaration by announcing he would personally take over supervision of the Ebola response. He appointed a new team of experts led by veteran Ebola researcher Jean-Jacques Muyembe.
“What we want is to involve the population of Benin, of Mangina, to follow the strategy we will implement there. So the first thing is to train young people of decision (the strategy) so they would be in charge of vaccination, of surveillance,” said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, Ebola team leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Complicating the response, the outbreak occurred in a conflict zone where rebels have attacked health workers and facilities.
The International Community and the DRC government have come up with a program aimed at strengthening the response to the Ebola outbreak over the next six months. But they are calling on the world to contribute more money to help contain the deadly disease that has killed more than 1,700 people since August last year.