The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has arrived in Uganda and met with the Minister of Health and partners to discuss ways of strengthening Ebola response.
Dr Tedros arrived in Uganda Sunday evening for an official visit. He made a stopover in Uganda while on his way from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he visited the Ebola hotspots, Butembo and Katwa. This is his third visit to Uganda since the Ebola outbreak was declared in August 2018 in DRC.
In Uganda, he was received by the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng and her technical teams, Rosa Malango the UN Resident Representative, Dr Yonas Tegyn the WHO Country Representative for Uganda and Dr Lisa Nelson, the Director CDC Uganda, yesterday at Protea Hotel in Entebbe.
He will meet officials in Uganda who are involved in the interventions against Ebola, to discuss the different aspects of the response.
Minister Aceng informed Dr Tedro that Uganda has been able to mobilize USD 18.4 million to train health workers in the high-risk districts, beef up logistics and set up isolation facilities.
She as well said Uganda convened the Ebola Accountability Forum- a forum which enabled all partners to share their different interventions.
However, she noted that the challenge is that Uganda now has to again mobilize resources for the response phase.
She appreciated the WHO for the support with the Ebola vaccines during the preparedness phase, where over 4,200 frontline health workers and other workers were vaccinated in Uganda.
“During this response phase, we have received a total of 3400 doses of the vaccine. A donation of 400 doses from the DRC as a quick initial measure to kick start vaccination of contacts, frontline health workers and other workers who were not vaccinated, and an additional 3,000 doses sent in by WHO”.
“All these arrived very timely and vaccinations commenced last Saturday, 15th June 2019 where over 20 contacts were vaccinated. Today, we expected to vaccinate over 70 people and the process will continue.”
Dr Tedro pledged his support to ensure that this outbreak is contained.
“From our side, I would like to pledge that we will continue mobilizing global and regional support to control this outbreak as soon as possible. It is not clean until the outbreak in DRC is finished,” he said.
He commented on the seemingly declining trends in Butembo and Katwa. He said, “There appears to be a decline in Butembo and Katwa areas. However, in my discussions with my colleagues, we agreed to be very careful with optimism but very cautious optimism because the Ebola situation in DRC has been very unpredictable with up and down trends.
He further said that Mabalako where the Ebola outbreak was first confirmed in August 2018 has once again become a hot bed of new infections. “Mabalako is now the hottest place where cases actually came from to Uganda” Dr Tedros noted.
He also revealed that in December 2018, WHO requested MERCK to produce more doses of the ‘Ebola-rVSV’ vaccine, to continue supporting the outbreak.
Since his last visit, Dr Tedros has been reviewing the progress made in the DRC Ebola response since his last visit. He has met with political, business, religious and traditional leaders. An all-society approach and an emphasis on community engagement is essential to defeat Ebola.
He is today, Monday, scheduled to meet with President Yoweri Museveni to further discuss Uganda’s response to the Ebola outbreak.
The UN resident Coordinator, Rosa Malango appreciated the political commitment of Government in responding to emergencies.
“I have discussed with Dr. Yonas, and agreed to meet on Monday 17th June 2019, to once again analyze the gaps and identify where support is needed in terms of financial resources” she said.
Dr Tedro’s visit to Uganda comes days after WHO for the third time declined to declare the Ebola outbreak in the DR Congo a public health emergency, even with the death toll now in thousands.
On Friday, the Emergency Committee meeting in Geneva under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding Ebola virus disease in DRC, resolved that “the outbreak is a health emergency in DRC and the region but does not meet all the three criteria for a PHEIC under the IHR”.
WHO says the risk of the disease spreading beyond the region remains low and declaring an emergency could have backfired.
In its recommendations, the Committee appealed to at-risk countries to improve their preparedness for detecting and managing exported cases, as Uganda has done.
It was also recommended that Cross-border screening in DRC continues and its quality improved and sustained.
“All priority countries should put in place approvals for investigational medicines and vaccines as an immediate priority for preparedness”.
“The Committee is deeply disappointed that WHO and the affected countries have not received the funding and resources needed for this outbreak”.
WHO appealed to the international community to step up funding and support strengthening of preparedness and response in DRC and neighbouring countries.