The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo as “public health emergency of international concern”.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, the Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the outbreak as, “a concerning geographic expansion,” but noted, it does not pose a global threat.
The agency has however recommended that, no borders be closed because of the declaration and that trade and travel to Congo not be restricted. Such restrictions, it said, would cause a terrible economic impact on the region and hamper the fight to stop the outbreak.
According to the global health organisation, more than 1,650 people have died from the current outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with about 12 new cases been reported daily.
This week, the first case was detected in Goma, which is home to more than a million.
“It is time for the world to take notice,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, as he accepted the advice of his advisory board to invoke the emergency provision (PHEIC), only used by the UN health agency four times previously.
Those included the H1N1, or swine flu, a pandemic of 2009, the spread of poliovirus in 2014, the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016 and the surge of the Zika virus in 2016.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomed the move, stating, “While it does not change the reality on the ground for victims or partners engaged in the response, we hope it will bring the international attention that this crisis deserves,” it said in a statement.
The outbreak, the second largest in history, started in August 2018 and is affecting two provinces in DR Congo; North Kivu and Ituri, with more than 2,500 people having been infectedm while two-thirds of them have died.