Nigeria Recorded Highest Rate Of Malaria Cases Globally In 2018 – WHO

Zika, w.h.o

 

A new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) says Nigeria accounted for more than half of all malaria cases worldwide with 25 percent, topping the list of 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India which carried almost 85 percent.

According to the WHO report, six African countries; Nigeria (25 percent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12 percent), Uganda (5 percent), and Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, and Niger (4 percent each) accounted for more than half of all malaria cases worldwide.

The World malaria report 2019 released on Wednesday by the WHO, said in 2018, an estimated 228 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide, compared with 251 million cases in 2010 and 231 million cases in 2017.

According to the report, the incidence rate of malaria declined globally between 2010 and 2018, from 71 to 57 cases per 1000 population at risk.

The prevalence of malaria was attributed to Plasmodium falciparum parasite in the WHO African Region, accounting for 99.7 per cent of estimated malaria cases in 2018, as well as in the WHO South-East Asia Region (50 percent), the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (71 percent) and the WHO Western Pacific Region (65 percent).

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The reports revealed that in 2018, an estimated 405,000 deaths were recorded from malaria globally, while children aged less than 5 years accounted for 67 percent (272,000) of all malaria deaths worldwide.

“Nearly 85 percent of global malaria deaths in 2018 were concentrated in 20 countries in the WHO African Region and India; Nigeria accounted for almost 24 percent of all global malaria deaths, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11 percent), the United Republic of Tanzania (5 percent), and Angola, Mozambique and Niger (4 percent each).

“In 2018, about 11 million pregnancies in moderate and high transmission sub-Saharan African countries would have been exposed to malaria infection. In 2018, the prevalence of exposure to malaria infection in pregnancy was highest in the West African subregion and Central Africa (each with 35 percent), followed by East and Southern Africa (20 percent). About 39 percent of these were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.”

The report also revealed that 11 countries with a high burden to high impact rate recorded about 155 million malaria cases in 2018.

“Of the 10 highest-burden countries in Africa, Ghana and Nigeria reported the highest absolute increases in cases of malaria in 2018 compared with 2017. The burden in 2018 was similar to that of 2017 in all other countries, apart from in Uganda and India, where there were reported reductions of 1.5 and 2.6 million malaria cases, respectively, in 2018 compared with 2017.”

However, the report reflected some gains, stating that malaria deaths reduced from about 400,000 in 2010 to about 260,000 in 2018, the largest reduction being in Nigeria, from almost 153,000 deaths in 2010 to about 95,000 deaths in 2018.

WHO Relocates Staff From DRC’s Beni Amid Unrest

 

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it had moved 49 staff out of Beni, eastern DR Congo, overnight amid growing insecurity, but warned of the impact on the fight against Ebola.

The UN health agency said it had flown more than a third of its 120 staff in Beni to Goma, further south on the country’s eastern border, as insecurity in the area surged.

But it said 71 essential staff remained in the town to try to push on with work to rein in the Ebola outbreak that has left some 2,200 dead.

“The violence needs to stop… This is very bad for the Ebola response,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told journalists in Geneva.

Insecurity has complicated efforts to rein in Ebola since the latest outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo began in August 2018.

But violence in the lawless east of the country has recently surged, with 77 civilians killed in the Beni region since November 5, according to a not-for-profit organisation, the Congo Research Group (CRG).

On Monday, at least four protesters were killed, according to the military, after clashes broke out and protesters stormed a UN camp over the perceived failure of UN peacekeepers to stop deadly attacks from militia groups.

“The security situation in Beni has definitely worsened overnight, or throughout the last days,” Lindmeier said.

But he stressed that unlike several previous spikes in violence, the anger this time had not specifically targeted Ebola responders.

Cases will rise

“As the community violence is not directed at the Ebola response, we will try as long as possible to maintain a minimum support for the community,” he said, stressing that those moved to Goma would also continue working remotely.

But the insecurity is nonetheless seriously hampering the response.

“Every day, every hour (that) we cannot go out (to) trace the contacts, help the communities with dignified burials, go out for vaccinations and for treatments … will most certainly result in rising cases,” Lindmeier said.

The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

The work to halt the Ebola epidemic is based on vaccinating and carefully tracking anyone who has been in contact with those infected, and the contacts of the contacts.

Lindmeier said that while health workers typically are able to successfully track more than 90 percent of all contacts, on Monday they only reached 17 percent.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergency response chief warned last week that the violence and lack of access was “now preventing us ending this outbreak”.

Over the week ending on November 24, seven new cases were registered, bringing the total number of cases to 3,303, including 2,199 deaths, WHO said.

AFP

Europe’s Prisons Not Monitoring Inmates’ Health, Says WHO

 

Prison authorities in Europe are not doing enough to monitor the health of inmates, meaning prisoners are more likely to suffer untreated conditions and are released without adequate support, the World Health Organisation said Thursday.

The UN body warned that such failings will come at a “high cost” for society at large as they add to the public health burden.

The WHO collected the data of 39 European countries between 2016 and 2017 and recommended that prisons test for tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, and addictions.

“A prison sentence takes away a person’s liberty; it should not also take away their health and their right to health,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen of WHO’s Europe branch, according to a statement from the body.

She said the prison population has a “disproportionate disease burden”.

“To achieve universal health coverage and better health and well-being for all, as in WHO’s vision, it is vital that prisons are seen as a window of opportunity to change lifestyles and ensure that no one is left behind,” she said.

The WHO said in a statement on its report that it found “the general state of monitoring and surveillance systems for health in prisons is poor”.

It warned prisoners with undiagnosed and untreated health conditions will “add to the public health burden in the outside community after their release”.

The report said that mental health was a key issue, especially after release, when prisoners are most at risk of suicide, self-harm and drug overdoses.

WHO said this meant care during the transition phase was “critical”.

The report found that 13.5 percent of deaths in prison were caused by suicide and that 14 percent of EU states do not screen for severe mental health disorders on arrival in prison.

Europe’s prisons also have a reoccurring problem of overcrowding, which can affect the health of detainees.

An estimated 6 million people are being incarcerated each year in the region, according to WHO.

Eight countries including France, Italy, and Portugal have “a serious overall problem” with overcrowding, according to a 2018 study by the Council of Europe.

AFP

Ebola Still An ‘Urgent’ Global Health Emergency – WHO

 

The deadly Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains an “urgent” global health emergency, The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday at its Emergency Committee meeting.

DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

“The public health emergency will be maintained for an additional three months”, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference.

“This outbreak remains a complex and dangerous outbreak,” he said, deploring the lack of funding.

The status of a global health emergency is an exceptional measure that has been used by the WHO four times: in 2009 for the Swine flu virus, in 2014 for polio, in 2014 for the Ebola epidemic which killed more than 11,000 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and in 2016 for the Zika virus.

Last week, the director of the WHO Emergency Program, Michael Ryan, expressed “cautious optimism” that the epidemic was confined to a smaller region.

The DRC health ministry said earlier this week Ebola had returned to Ituri province in the north-east of the country after nearly 300 days without any new cases.

“The number of cases has declined each week for the past four weeks. But these encouraging trends should be interpreted with caution,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“The area is a very complex area, it’s a very volatile area. We have made very significant progress, the number of cases have plummeted.

“But if there is insecurity incidents, we may lose what we have gained so far.”

Since the most recent Ebola outbreak, a vaccine a developed by Merck Sharp and Dohme has been used on more than 230,000 people.

On Friday, the vaccine which has yet to be licensed, received a green light from The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in a step towards its commercialisation.

A second experimental vaccine manufactured by the Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson is to be introduced in November, according to DR Congo medical officials.

Russian Alcohol Consumption Falls Steeply

FILES) In this file photo taken on August 26, 2011 a man drinks a beer in a Moscow’s outdoor pub. 
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV / AFP

 

Russia might still have a reputation as a nation of hard drinkers, but a report by the World Health Organization published Tuesday showed alcohol consumption has dropped by 43 percent since 2003.

The WHO put the decrease down to a raft of measures brought in under sport-loving President Vladimir Putin, including restrictions on alcohol sales and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

“The Russian Federation has long been considered one of the heaviest-drinking countries in the world,” the report said, adding that alcohol was a major contributor to a spike in deaths in the 1990s.

“However, in recent years these trends have been reversed.”

The study showed a 43 percent drop in alcohol consumption per capita from 2003 to 2016, driven by a steep decline in the consumption of bootleg booze.

The authors said this trend was a factor in increased life expectancies, which reached a historic peak in 2018, at 78 years for women and 68 years for men.

In the early 1990s, male life expectancy was just 57 years.

Last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev led an anti-alcohol campaign with partial prohibition, which brought down consumption from the mid-1980s until 1990.

But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, alcohol consumption exploded, continuing to rise until the start of the 2000s.

Under Putin, Russia has introduced measures including a ban on shops selling any alcohol after 11 pm, increases in the minimum retail price of spirits and an advertising blackout.

Earlier WHO figures showed Russian adults now drink less alcohol on average than their French and German counterparts.

Moscow has also launched a drive against smoking, last week announcing a ban on lighting up even on private balconies.

Tobacco use plummeted by more than a fifth between 2009 and 2016, down to 30 percent of Russians smoking according to the most recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey.

AFP

WHO Welcomes Indian Electronic Cigarette Ban

In this file photo taken on October 2, 2018, a man exhales smoke from an electronic cigarette in Washington, DC./AFP

 

The World Health Organization congratulated India on Thursday for its ban on electronic cigarettes, the latest evidence of a global backlash against a technology touted as safer than regular smoking.

In a tweet, the UN body’s South-East Asia office said that India was the sixth country in the region to ban e-cigarettes after North Korea, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and East Timor.

Singapore has also outlawed e-cigarettes.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a prominent opponent of smoking, also congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “recognizing this epidemic and putting the health of your citizens first”.

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Citing health concerns, the Indian government announced on Wednesday a ban on the production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution and storage of e-cigarettes.

It came a day after New York became the second US state to outlaw flavoured e-cigarettes, and a week after President Donald Trump said his administration was considering a ban.

E-cigarettes heat up a liquid, flavoured with anything from bourbon to bubble gum and usually containing nicotine, into vapour — hence “vaping” — which is inhaled.

The technology has been pushed by producers, and also by some governments including in Europe as a safer alternative to tobacco — and as a way to kick the habit.

The vapour is missing the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke but does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful.

Critics say that apart from being potentially harmful in themselves, savvy marketing and the flavours available have turned millions of children into vapers — and into potential future smokers.

The sale of tobacco remains legal in India, prompting accusations that Modi’s main aim is to protect India’s domestic industry, on which some 45 million people depend for their livelihood.

India is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco and exports around a billion dollars worth of the produce annually, with the government holding stakes in several tobacco firms, including ITC.

India is also the world’s second-largest consumer of traditional tobacco products, although chewing — which still causes cancer — is much more common than smoking, killing nearly 900,000 people a year, according to the WHO.

With One Suicide Every 40 Seconds, WHO Urges Action

 

Nearly 800,000 people commit suicide each year – more than those killed by war and homicide or breast cancer, the World Health Organization said Monday, urging action to avert the tragedies.

In a fresh report, the UN health agency said that the global suicide rate had fallen somewhat between 2010 and 2016, but the number of deaths has remained stable because of a growing global population.

“Despite progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, insisting that “every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues.”

The global suicide rate in 2016 – the last year for which data was available – stood at 10.5 per 100,000 people.

But rates varied widely, with suicides in some countries as low as five per 100,000, while Guyana, which topped the scales, registered a rate of over 30 per 100,000.

Overall, the global suicide rate fell by nearly 10 per cent from 2010 to 2016, with the western Pacific showing declines of nearly 20 per cent and Southeast Asia registering a decline of only 4.2 per cent.

The Americas meanwhile was the only region that showed an uptick in suicides, with a six per cent hike over the six-year period.

“We know that in the region of the Americas, access to firearms and guns is an important means of suicide,” Alexandra Fleischmann of WHO’s mental health division, told reporters in Geneva in answer to a question.

The overall decline is explained by the fact that a number of countries — 38 in total — have put in place suicide prevention strategies, WHO said, stressing however that many more countries must follow suit.

‘Preventable’

“Suicides are preventable,” Tedros said, calling “on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programmes in a sustainable way.”

The most common methods of suicide are hanging, gunshots and — especially in rural areas – the ingestion of poisonous pesticides.

Most suicides happen in low- and middle-income countries, where most of the global population lives, but rates are higher in wealthier countries, the WHO report found.

After Guyana, Russia registered the world’s second-highest rate, with 26.5 suicides per 100,000 people.

Also figuring high on the list were Lithuania, Lesotho, Uganda, Sri Lanka, South Korea, India and Japan, as well as the United States, which registered 13.7 suicides per 100,000 people.

In almost every country, men are more likely than women to commit suicide.

Only in five countries — Bangladesh, China, Lesotho, Morocco, and Myanmar — do women commit suicide at a higher rate than men.

Young people are especially vulnerable: More than half of all those who commit suicide are under the age of 45.

And among 15-29-year-olds, suicide is, in fact, second only to road accidents as the leading cause of death.

The WHO said it was launching a one-month campaign starting on World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, including the launch of a resource booklet for filmmakers.

‘Vulnerable’

It will warn of the dangers of graphic descriptions or depictions of suicide, which have been shown to trigger copycat suicides among people struggling with mental health issues.

In July, Netflix said it had removed a graphic suicide scene from the first season of hit show “13 Reasons Why”, following concern from mental health experts who feared it glorified suicide.

Two studies published in May found that suicides among US youths rose significantly in the months following the popular show’s release in 2017.

“The research has shown over many years… that there are people who imitate, who are vulnerable,” Fleischmann said.

The WHO report also said countries could make a significant dent in suicide numbers by limiting access to pesticides.

Pesticides are often so toxic that suicide attempts using them tend to succeed.

In Sri Lanka, regulations and bans on pesticides led to a 70 per cent fall in suicides between 1995 and 2015, resulting in 93,000 lives saved, the report said.

And in South Korea, a ban on the herbicide paraquat in 2011 and 2012 lead to the halving of suicides by pesticide poisoning between 2011 and 2013, it said.

Every 40 Seconds, Someone Dies By Suicide – WHO

A portrait of a patient at a mental health hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: UN

 

Speaking in Geneva ahead of World Suicide Prevention day, recognized on 10 September, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues,” yet many more suicides can be prevented.

Dr Ghebreyesus also stated that all countries should “incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programmes in a sustainable way”.

Since WHO’s first report on the issue was filed in 2014, the number of countries with national suicide prevention strategies has increased, and now stands at 38. However, this participation “is still far too few and governments need to commit to establishing them”, WHO said.

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WHO Facts and figures on suicide.

Close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and for each death, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. Every year, suicide accounts for more deaths than war and homicide combined, and is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15-29, behind road injury, the health agency reports.

Globally, 79 per cent of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries, however high-income countries have the highest rates of suicide. Incidents are three times higher among men than women in wealthier countries, while these rates are more equal in poorer nations.

Addressing causes, the link between suicide and mental health in well-established in high-income countries, however “many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis”, according to WHO.

“Experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behavior” WHO outlines in its list of key facts. Vulnerable groups who experience discrimination show higher rates of suicide and “by far, the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.”

The complex issue demands coordination across multiple sectors to boost prevention. Stigma surrounding mental disorders, lack of awareness of suicide as a major health problem, and a taboo in many societies to openly discussing it, means many people contemplating suicide are not getting adequate help.

WHO recommends better training of health workers and non-specialists alike in assessing and managing suicidal behavior in its guidelines for prevention, along with early treatment of mental health disorders, effective monitoring of alcohol and substance use, responsible reporting by the media, and reducing access to means of suicide.

20 per cent of global suicides down to pesticide poisoning
Pesticide poisoning, which the agency identifies as a less-commonly used but tragically “highly effective strategy”, accounts for 20 per cent of global suicides. Due to the high toxicity of many chemicals used in suicide attempts, this method often results in death.

Regulations of highly hazardous pesticides in Sri Lanka have cut suicides by 70 percent, saving an estimated 93,000 lives in a ten-year span, and halved suicide deaths from poisoning in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea between 2011 and 2013, WHO’s report shows.

WHO recognizes suicide as a “public health priority.” In 2008, the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) launched as an evidence-based guide to scale up service for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.

WHO’s action plan for 2013-2020 sets a global target of reducing suicide rates by 10 per cent by 2020; in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which sets a target of cutting suicide rates by one third up to 2030.

On World Suicide Prevention Day this Tuesday, WHO in collaboration with global partners, will launch the 40 seconds of action campaign to raise awareness of suicide around the world and methods of prevention. Campaign efforts will continue throughout 10 October on World Mental health Day, with suicide prevention as this year’s theme.

DRC Ex-Health Minister Questioned Over Use Of Ebola Funds

File: Health workers are seen inside the ‘red zone’ of an Ebola treatment centre, which was attacked in the early hours of the morning in Butembo. / AFP

 

Oly Ilunga, who resigned as DR Congo health minister last month, was questioned on Tuesday as part of an enquiry into the use of public funds earmarked to tackle the Ebola epidemic, his lawyer said.

The former minister’s evidence was heard by the attorney general and “trusts in the justice system of his country,” lawyer Guy Kabeya told AFP.

A judicial source said Ilunga had left “freely”.

Three of the minister’s former co-workers, including a doctor, were held in custody the source added, confirming a report by the Top Congo radio station.

The hearings were part of a preliminary inquiry “into the management of substantial funds provided by the government for the battle against the Ebola virus,”  which has claimed almost 2,000 lives, another source said.

Ilunga resigned last month, citing his removal as the head of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola response team and concerns over a proposed “experiment” with a new, unlicensed vaccine.

Nearly 170,000 people have been given an Ebola vaccine manufactured by German pharma giant Merck since the outbreak started in the Democratic Republic of Congo a year ago.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been pushing for the introduction of a second vaccine produced by US company Johnson & Johnson, but the health ministry under Ilunga has resisted such a move, citing the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.

The Merck vaccine is tested but unlicensed, while the Johnson & Johnson drug is still in the trial investigation stage.

The vast central African nation’s new point man on Ebola, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, told reporters on Tuesday that “we now have the situation on the ground under control.”

“There is great hope that thing will get a lot better in the days to come, he added, thanking China for 60 tonnes of medical equipment to tackle the problem.

Since August last year, Ebola has killed more than 1,900 people in the DR Congo, the second-biggest epidemic since more than 11,300 people died in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016.

AFP

Burundi Starts Vaccinating Health Workers Against Ebola

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that Burundi had begun vaccinating frontline workers against Ebola at its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an outbreak of the virus has killed close to 1,900 people.

The campaign to vaccinate at-risk staff against the deadly hemorrhagic fever started Tuesday at Gatumba, the main crossing point from Burundi to its much-larger neighbour, WHO said.

Burundi has received doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, an unlicensed product that has been shown to be effective against the Zairian strain of the virus raging in DR Congo.

It would be administered to those at greatest risk such as health workers along the border, laboratory staff and burial teams, WHO said.

“The vaccination of health and frontline staff is a significant step forward in preparing for the response to this disease,” said Dr Kazadi Mulombo, WHO representative in Burundi.

The vaccine, developed by US pharmaceutical group Merck, proved “highly effective” in a trial conducted in Guinea in 2015 during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, he added.

The vaccination campaign will be overseen by WHO and Burundi’s health ministry.

The Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo is the second-worst in history. A total of 1,892 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak began on August 1 2018.

No cases of Ebola have been recorded so far in Burundi, a tiny nation of 11 million.

But its border with DR Congo is 236 kilometres (147 miles) long and considered highly porous, and the whole region is on high alert.

In June, three people from one family died in Uganda from Ebola after returning from DR Congo via an unofficial crossing point.

Burundi also shares a border with Rwanda and Tanzania.

The Congo outbreak is the first where vaccines have been rolled out on a large-scale.

The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine has already been administered to some 170,000 people, especially frontline workers, in DR Congo.

This week, US researchers announced that two prototype drugs being tested among Ebola patients in eastern DR Congo boost chances of surviving the disease.

AFP

WHO Declares Congo’s Ebola Outbreak An ‘Emergency Of Global Concern’

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern,” a rare designation only used for the gravest epidemics.

The year-old Ebola epidemic in eastern DR Congo, the second deadliest on record, has largely been contained to remote areas, but this week saw a patient diagnosed with the virus in provincial capital Goma, the first case in a major urban hub.

“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, activated by the UN health agency only four times previously.

Those included the H1N1, or swine flu, the 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 Ebola virus is highly contagious and has an average fatality rate of around 50 percent. It is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads among people through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person.

Responders had hoped that this Ebola outbreak would be easier to control, thanks in part to a new vaccine.

While more than 160,000 people in the affected provinces of North Kivu and Ituri have been vaccinated, containment efforts have been hampered by chronic unrest in the region and a lack of trust in communities for health workers.

A panel of top WHO officials that met in Geneva on Wednesday to issue the emergency call expressed “disappointment about delays in funding which have constrained the response.”

A fresh UN funding appeal for several hundred million dollars to cover the ensuing six months is expected in the coming days.

Reacting to the emergency declaration, the president of Doctors Without Borders, Joanne Liu, called for “a change of gear” in response to the outbreak.

“We need to take stock of what is working and what is not working,” she said.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomed the decision, voicing hope that the emergency call “will bring the international attention that this crisis deserves.”

Goma case ‘game-changer’

Since August last year, the DRC Ebola outbreak has killed more than 1,600 people out of more than 2,500 cases.

WHO has held off on making the emergency declaration on three previous occasions, but the confirmation of a case in North Kivu’s capital Goma escalated the crisis.

Tedros this week called the Goma patient a “potential game-changer,” because the city is a “gateway” to Africa’s Great Lakes region and the wider world.

The Goma patient has been described as an evangelical preacher who travelled to Goma from Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by Ebola.

He had reportedly touched several Ebola patients in Butembo and concealed his identity in order to evade health screenings while en route to Goma.

The emergency committee cited the patient, who has died, as a “specific cause for concern”.

Even if the risk of global spread is “still low”, the Goma case posed “worrying signs of possible extension of the epidemic,” the committee said.

A city of about one million people, Goma sits on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, adjacent to Rwanda’s town of Gisenyi.

It has a port that links to DRC city Bukavu and the South Kivu province as well as an airport with flights to the capital Kinshasa, Uganda’s Entebbe and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Checking temperatures at borders

At the Goma-Gisenyi crossing on Wednesday, megaphone announcements instructed all travellers to wash their hands “to prevent Ebola sickness virus,” using basins of water with added bleach.

Health workers wearing yellow high-visibility jackets took the temperature of people crossing the border, in both directions.

WHO’s announcement provoked a mixed response from DR Congo’s Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga, who has been critical of the motive of some non-governmental organisations in raising donations for the crisis.

He said that while he “accepts” WHO’s decision, he hoped it was not “the result of pressure from different groups… who want to use the statement as an opportunity to raise funds for humanitarian actors”.

“We hope there will be greater transparency and accountability by humanitarian actors in how they use their funds to respond to this Ebola outbreak,” he said in a statement.

The WHO’s international health regulations, drafted in 2005, say that the emergency label should apply to a situation that is “an extraordinary event that poses a public health risk to other countries through the international spread and that potentially requires a coordinated international response.”

Some fear that making the emergency call could trigger border closures, which the head of the WHO emergency panel, Robert Steffen, strongly urged against.

AFP

DR Congo Ebola Outbreak ‘Health Emergency’ Of International Concern – WHO

 

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern,” a rare designation only used for the gravest epidemics.

“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, 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 said it “welcomed” the decision.

“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,” the IFRC said in a statement.

The WHO’s international health regulations, drafted in 2005, say that the international emergency label should apply to a situation that is “serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action”.

More than 1,600 people have died from Ebola since August 1, when the haemorrhagic virus erupted in DR Congo’s North Kivu and spread to neighbouring Ituri.