KAMPALA, UGANDA (July 17, 2019) The World Health Organization (WHO) has finally declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 17 as a long overdue acknowledgement that the current Ebola outbreak remains uncontained and still poses a significant threat to global health security.
A PHEIC declaration carries legal obligations requiring affected states to cooperate with the WHO in coordinating an outbreak response plan and also puts the global public health community on notice signifying a substantial health security risk to the world.
“The PHEIC declaration is a step in the right direction, but it should have been declared months ago,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Now, Dr. Tedros must act quickly to mobilize the resources from donor countries and mount a robust response. All available vaccines must be fast-tracked for approval so that a large-scale inoculation campaign can begin immediately – an emergency declaration is only effective if it’s followed by swift action.”
The declaration comes two days before the expiration of a thirty-day period during which AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) called on Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to demonstrate resolute leadership on Ebola or resign.
According to a news report by the BBC, the WHO is currently facing a shortfall of $54 million needed to address the outbreak.
AHF operates healthcare programs in two countries currently being affected or being threatened by the outbreak—Uganda and Rwanda. Despite lessons learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, basic medical equipment and supplies are still in short supply. AHF recently donated thirty-thousand dollars’ worth of medical supplies to Uganda to help protect medical staff in Western Uganda near the DRC border.
As of July 12, there have been 2,477 Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that have resulted in 1,655 deaths. In addition, the virus spread to neighboring Uganda, where as of June 24, there have been a total of three confirmed cases of Ebola. All three individuals had recently travelled to the DRC, and all succumbed to the disease.