This first visit of health officials, by means of a UNHAS flight negotiated by WHO for a total of 90 hours at the cost of US$ 400 000, will afford the authorities of the Ministry of Health, the Governor of Bas-Uélé Province, the WHO Representative as well as some 12 experts accompanying them – epidemiologists, logisticians, communicators, psychologists, data managers, etc. – from WHO, UNICEF and MSF, the opportunity to conduct a rapid assessment of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak that was officially notified by the authorities on 12 May 2017.
With the deployment of two mobile laboratories of the National Biomedical Research Institute (IRNB) in Nambwa (the epicentre of the outbreak) to facilitate rapid diagnoses on the ground and the presence of a number of experts – seven logisticians from WHO will be on hand to manage the three logistical bases in three areas, namely Buta, Likati and Nambwa – WHO and its partners are mounting a powerful response by means of a mechanism intended to coordinate and expedite the response. An Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) will be set up over the next 48 to 72 hours by MSF with the aim of isolating the patients, providing them with appropriate treatment and limiting the risk of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
‘’We are placing this first field visit under the banner of solidarity with, and compassion for, the population of Likati who are affected by this latest outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in the DRC. We appeal for a greater show of solidarity from the international community to enable the DRC to urgently contain the outbreak, as the country is already facing another humanitarian crisis in its central region [Editor’s note: in Kasaï]”, stated Dr Allarangar Yokouidé, WHO Representative in the DRC.
In Buta, the administrative seat of the province, the delegation will hold discussions with political and administrative authorities, active forces and community and religious leaders in view of generating strong social mobilization. Thereafter, about a dozen persons will be airlifted in a UNHAS helicopter to Likati, located about 100 km from the chief town of the Province.
‘‘The idea is to open up access to the outbreak area, facilitate the safe deployment of teams, equipment and materials for the two mobile laboratories, and to give the officials the opportunity to observe what is actually happening on the ground,” explained Jean-Pierre Veyrenche, a WHO logistician. He stated that similar flights had been scheduled for the coming week with the financial support of WHO, to respond to urgent needs and to ensure the gradual deployment of the various operational partners.
On Monday 15 May, the Minister of Public Health, with the support of partners, produced a national response plan to the outbreak, costed at over US$ 8 million and covering the various areas of intervention, including: (i) coordinating the multisectoral response through the outbreak prevention and control committees, (ii) strengthening surveillance, active case research and contact tracing, (iii) strict enforcement of hygiene and biosafety measures in health facilities and local communities, (iv) medical management of patients and suspected cases, (v) strengthening the diagnostic capacities of the mobile laboratories, (vi) providing significant support for risk communication activities, social mobilization, community engagement and others.
As of 16 May 2017, the updated epidemiological situation presents a combined total of 21 suspected cases with three deaths (case fatality rate of 15%). Nambwa health district notified the greatest number of the earliest cases: 13 in all, with two deaths (case fatality: 16%). Over 40 contacts, spread over four health districts - Azande, Nambwa, Ngayi and Muna – are being traced with the help of community relay agents to ensure that they do not develop the disease.
Eugene Kabambi, Communication Officer, WHO DRC, email@example.com ; Direct: +243 817 151 697