United Nations, Jun 15 : The head of the UN health agency, WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus reconvened on Friday an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations, to assess the status of what is now the second largest Ebola outbreak ever, in central Africa.
Committee members decided that despite “deep concern” and the spread of the disease into neighbouring Uganda, the criteria for the declaration of an international health emergency were not met, according to the UN News.
The Ebola outbreak is a health emergency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and for the region, but it is not yet a critical concern of international proportions, the committee noted.
"Although the outbreak does not at this time pose a global health threat, I want to emphasise that for the affected families and communities, this outbreak is very much an emergency," said Dr. Ghebreyesus in a press conference, he joined via teleconference from DRC.
This week, a cluster of four cases was identified in Uganda, after a Congolese family crossed the border from DR Congo. Two of them died shortly after, and the response and containment efforts in Uganda were subsequently scaled up. The head of the Committee, Dr. Preben Aavitsland, urged neighbouring countries to heed the recommendations issued by the WHO, to strengthen preparedness and detection measures.
"Although the spread of Ebola to Uganda is tragic, it is not a surprise. We have said since the beginning of the outbreak that the risk of cross-border spread was very high, and it remains very high. The fact that it has taken this long is a testament to the incredible work of all partners on both sides of the border," stressed WHO's Dr Ghebreyesus.
Referring to the funding gap of over US$ 54 million faced by humanitarian and health organisations working to tackle the crisis on the ground, both officials called on the international community to step up funding and support to strengthen preparedness and response in the DRC and in neighbouring countries. (UNI)