[This article has been published in Spanish in Planeta Futuro-El País]
The global health community is still working on addressing and closing the gaps identified in the emergency response of the 2014/15 Ebola outbreakOn the 8th of May 2018, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak, after 2 samples tested positive for the virus. Additionally, reports have cited 17 related deaths to the virus. DRC, which has been plagued with years of political unrest and an ongoing humanitarian crisis, presents a unique challenge in the control of the current Ebola virus. This comes at a time when the global health community is still working on addressing and closing the gaps identified in the emergency response of the 2014/15 Ebola outbreak, that saw 11,000 people die in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus budding from the surface of a Vero cell. Image: NIAID
It will necessitate implementation of context-specific interventions, in addition to basic emergency response effortsWith reports of over 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, a cholera outbreak with over 55,000 cases and an epidemic of sexual violence; responding to the Ebola crisis in DRC may present an uphill task for the global community which is already dealing with a fragile society. Additionally, a survey done in 2016, showed that many Congolese don’t feel that they benefit from humanitarian work or international NGOs, even those in affected areas.
Bearing all this in mind, it will necessitate implementation of context-specific interventions, in addition to basic emergency response efforts. There is also need to intervene taking into account the weaknesses identified in the 2014 Ebola response such as lack of timely response, lack of coordination among acting stakeholders (national, regional and international) and poor involvement of communities and understanding of their cultural contexts.
Map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Africa CDC is already being put to task with this Ebola outbreakWith the African Union, African Centre for Disease Control launched early this year, to improve surveillance, emergency response and prevent infectious diseases on the continent. The Africa CDC is already being put to task with this Ebola outbreak, emphasizing the importance of its role within the region in strengthening detection and response of disease outbreaks. Together with other regional and international partners such as the World Health Organization, support has been lent to the Ministry of Health in terms of technical and financial expertise.
As the world watches closely how this outbreak unfolds, it’s with hope that there will be more attention towards community engagement and building community trust for a rapid and inclusive response. Moreover, that improved coordination among the acting stakeholders will be observed, after all the goal is the same, to control and stop further spread of the virus.