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WHO Ebola Emergency Committee meets to discuss current situation in the DRC

The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) met on Friday, 14th June 2019.

The Emergency Committee meeting followed the first reported cases of the spread of Ebola outside the DRC, with a cluster of cases in neighbouring Uganda.

Key points from the meeting include:

  • The Committee expressed its deep concern about the ongoing outbreak, which, despite some positive epidemiological trends, especially in the epicentres of Butembo and Katwa, shows that the extension and/or reinfection of disease in other areas like Mabalako, presents, once again, challenges around community acceptance and security. In addition, the response continues to be hampered by a lack of adequate funding and strained human resources.
  • The cluster of cases in Uganda is not unexpected; the rapid response and initial containment is a testament to the importance of preparedness in neighbouring countries. The Committee commended the communication and collaboration between DRC and Uganda.
  • The exportation of cases into Uganda is a reminder that, as long as this outbreak continues in DRC, there is a risk of spread to neighbouring countries, although the risk of spread to countries outside the region remains low.
  • The Committee extensively debated the impact of a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) declaration on the response, possible unintended consequences, and how these might be managed. Differing views were expressed, as the Committee acknowledged that recent cases in Uganda constitute international spread of disease. The Committee decided that the outbreak does not meet all the three criteria for a PHEIC and, while the outbreak is an extraordinary event, with risk of international spread, the ongoing response would not be enhanced by formal Temporary Recommendations under the IHR (2005).
  • The Committee expressed that it is ‘deeply disappointed’ that WHO and the affected countries have not received the funding and resources needed for this outbreak. The international community ‘must step up funding and support strengthening of preparedness and response in DRC and neighbouring countries’.

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