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Ebola Threat: Minister Aceng Rushes to Goma as ADF Rebels Block Health Workers

Uganda’s Health Minister Dr Ruth Aceng has rushed to Goma Town on the border of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo in what appears a move to step up plans to combat the Ebola outbreak in Kivu, Chimp Corps report.

As of December 3, 2018, the DRC Ministry of Health had registered 267 deaths and also recorded 405 confirmed cases, ringing alarm bells in Uganda.

During a cross border meeting on Ebola Outbreak held Wednesday, Dr Aceng said so far, Uganda has not confirmed a case but the “scale of the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, presents a formidable risk of spread beyond the current epicenter due to technical challenges related to case containment and large numbers of people who across daily the common border for several socio-economic reasons some of which include; trade, health services, Education and cultural relationships and refugee influx.”

She further said the resultant risk of transmission could be within DRC, across borders or refugees hosting communities.

In the last two decades, Uganda has had five Ebola outbreaks mostly along its western regions close to the DRC.

All the outbreaks were controlled at Source with very limited spread beyond the localities of original incidence.

Uganda is currently considered a high risk country in Africa due to its proximity to the DRC or an outbreak within the country.

Aceng said the districts in the country have been categorized by risk into three to guide planning and response as High, Moderate and Low risk districts.

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She said the response strategies and capacities based on the six pillars are being developed to scale coordination and resource mobilization, surveillance and Laboratory, Case management and IPC, risk communication and mobilization, Mental Health and psychosocial support, EVD Ring Vaccination, Therapeutics and Research, Emergency logistics.

DRC’s concerns

The DRC team led by Minister of Health Dr Sem Llunga expressed concern over the insecurity in some parts of the Eastern province which has hampered their response to Ebola outbreak.

Dr Shem indicated areas with Ebola outbreak are controlled by local militias known as Mai Mai with whom they have to negotiate before deploying health care workers.

However, he said that the areas controlled by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have not had any Ebola response interventions.

“The security situation in the jungles controlled by the ADF has made it difficult for us to respond to the outbreak in these areas.  We have not made any contact with the ADF,” he said.

The rebels have in recent months stepped up attacks, killing peacekeepers and civilians.

Dr Aceng thanked the DRC government for intercepting five families with affected persons who were trying to cross into the Uganda Boarder.

The DRC Ministry of Health indicated that it has vaccinated over 10,000 health care workers in the areas affected by the outbreak who include modern and traditional health workers.

Dr Aceng called for a high level coordination mechanisms and common platform to address common challenges in containing the outbreak.

She said both parties need to agree on a harmonized mechanism for responding to the common epidemic across the common borders including strengthening information exchange to enable contact tracing; alert verification or joint epidemiological investigations and tighten cross border surveillance by encouraging collaboration between the local health zone in DRC and the border district in Uganda.

The Minister also called for joint risk assessments and joint response, in case of Ebola cases on the border line; mapping common crossing points with significant population movements for joint screening and monitoring and deployment of technical experts between the two countries when required.

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