Insiders Insight: Ebola is now a global emergency
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Table of contents:
- Follow up
- Zuma’s cat and mouse game with the State Capture Commission
- Negotiations in Sudan take two steps forward and one step back
- What everyone is talking about
- Ebola now a global emergency
- What we are talking about
- Hyperinflation rears its head again in Zimbabwe
- State of the earth
- Kenya’s shiny, new wind farm
- Hear this word
- Are dowries refundable?
- Report of the week
- Is zero hunger by 2030 achievable?
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Free segment: What everyone is talking about
Ebola now a global emergency
The essentials: The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo a public health emergency of international concern. It’s the highest alarm the body can sound. The virus has now taken more than 1,600 lives in that region and it keeps spreading.
The context: Next month will make it a year since the Ebola outbreak was first declared in the DRC. Health workers and activists have called on WHO to declare a public emergency in the DRC for some months now. The body initially held back. Officials maintained that conditions in the region did not fit the criteria for a global emergency, only a national one. WHO officials are keen to avoid a repeat of 2014, where countries like Canada refused entry to citizens of affected countries.
But the discovery of a live case in Goma likely swayed the emergency committee and spurred the latest response. Goma is home to more than one million people and is the gateway to Rwanda, but WHO advises that borders between the two countries remain open to avoid placing trade restrictions on affected communities.
The virus spread to Uganda last month and was contained but there are fears that a Congolese trader may have carried the virus there a second time. This is the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history. The first, in West Africa, killed 11,000 people between 2014 and 2016.
The good: More countries will pay attention to the crisis in the DRC and that will help WHO raise much-needed funding to reduce the virus’ spread and treat live cases. The international response so far has been disappointing. There is a shortfall of $54m in funds because only half of what was promised by donor countries has been made available. With the new alarms, countries like the United States and France, which have held back in donations, are likely to commit more aid money and resources to Ebola funds.
The bad: The emergency declaration signifies that the DRC is on edge. There are now more than 2500 cases. 136 health workers have contracted the virus and 40 of them have died. The new case in Goma doesn’t bode well for a city that houses a large number of fairly overcrowded, internally displaced person’s camps. It spells trouble for Rwandan authorities too: 15,000 people move across the DRC-Rwanda border in Goma daily, mainly to trade. If you add the conflict in DRC, a weak health system battling cholera and distrust of health workers to the mix, it becomes clear that this is the most frustrating Ebola outbreak yet.
The future: Will Rwanda be affected? Not if more countries actively join in the fight. Goma has an airport with international flights so it is probable that reactions on the international front will be swifter than expected. With renewed multinational responses, there will be some progress.
- Must read: Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (WHO)
- DR Congo Ebola outbreak declared global health emergency (BBC)
- The Guardian view on Ebola in the DRC: help needed – and dialogue too (Guardian)
- Earlier Ebola Outbreaks, and How the World Overcame Them (The New York Times)
- What the Ebola emergency means, what it doesn’t mean, and what’s next (STAT)
- Congolese soldiers to force hand-washing, fever checks after Ebola emergency declaration (AP)
- AU calls for int’l action to address Ebola outbreak in DR Congo(Xinhua)
- Ebola Screeners Boost Surveillance as Outbreak Becomes Emergency (Bloomberg)
- Video: Can Ebola be wiped out? (Al Jazeera)
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The Africa Insiders’ Newsletter is a collaboration between AfricanArguments.org and @PeterDoerrie, with contributions from @_andrew_green, @shollytupe, and assistance from Stella Nantongo. Part of the subscription revenue is funding in-depth and freely accessible reporting and analysis on African Arguments.