As the world is struggling to fight the coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China in December last year, Africa is seeing increasing cases of not just COVID-19, but also the deadly disease, Ebola. The response is being led by government officials at both the national and the provincial level and WHO and other partners are providing operational and technical support to that response.
In terms of the response in the field from Mbandaka down to Bikoro there are two potential points of disease transmission. The imagery and the photographs that WHO has received from the field show just how difficult it is to move and operate, particularly in Bikoro area.
“It’s an area that both Director-General and myself visited many times in the last outbreak so there are major logistics obstacles in terms of mounting the response,” said Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
In Africa, UNICEF and other organisations are working to engage communities and build the community acceptance for both contact tracing and for investigation.
WHO is using funds from their contingency funds for epidemics, to which many countries from around the world contribute. “That allowed us to mount a very rapid response with partners and in support of the Ministry of Health and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Ryan.
Ryan also adds that Congo has demonstrated tremendous advance in its capacity to manage complex epidemic events scientifically, operationally and logistically but the challenge that they face in Equateur province is long distances, scattered communities, and many deep in rainforested areas but connected to the major city of Mbandaka which is right on the River Congo.
There is a mixture of a situation that’s potentially emerging from the deep forest but is connected through urbanisation to a major waterway which is connected through Kinshasa to the rest of the world. In many cases that’s a microcosm of disease emergence and the challenges that all face collectively.
The director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom also said that US continues its commitment to support in the fight especially against Ebola. “We hope to work together with the US to address that outbreak in western DRC. As you may remember, it was in May 2018 that we had the outbreak in the same place, western DRC and as Mike said, we had been to Mbandaka, Bikoro, and it took us three to four months to control it, from May to August,” added Tedros.
What makes these places difficult is the logistical problems with moving things from Mbandaka to Bikoro that is as much as 150km but takes more than a day to cross. This is what makes it the most difficult to fight Ebola in that area.
Experts are also confident that Africa will come out of Ebola once again as the DRC has a really strong and good experience in fighting Ebola and are doing their best. and that gives us hope and we should continue to support them in order to finish this as soon as possible.
With the efforts of scientists, the health workers, the public health workers, the nurses and doctors of the Democratic Republic Of Congo who are standing again in the front line will be able to protect the world from another emergence of Ebola.