Uganda-DRC border residents at high risk of Ebola

Saturday November 17 2018

Ebola

Health workers in DR Congo move a patient to a hospital after he was cleared of Ebola on November 4, 2018. PHOTO | AFP 

By HALIMA ABDALLAH
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Security concerns remain a major impediment in the control of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has so far claimed over 200 lives.

People living in Ugandan districts bordering the DRC are now at high risk according to the latest World Health Organisation assessment.

In late September, WHO elevated its risk assessment for the outbreak to “high, very high and medium risk.” The “very high risk” status applies to border districts next to North Kivu and Ituri Provinces in the DRC.

“Within the Uganda border, 28 districts have been categorised as high to very high risk due to the worsening security situation in DRC,” Junior Health Minister Joyce Kaducu said.

This assessment was followed by another by the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee on Health Emergency, which reviewed Uganda’s preparedness. They advised the country to intensify surveillance as people routinely use unofficial border points to cross into the country.

Government data shows that about 5,000 people cross the border every day, a number that goes up to 20,000 on market days. In addition, about 250 to 300 refugees from North Kivu and Ituri Provinces arrive through both formal and informal border points.

Uganda’s Health Ministry said there is no confirmed Ebola case in the country yet. The DRC’s Ministry of Health said there are 329 cumulative cases and 295 confirmed cases, with 205 deaths reported.

Uganda has established a national contingency plan and mobilised resources for effective response. Screening of all travellers at Entebbe International Airport is ongoing, and suspected cases are isolated.

Tests are done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute Entebbe. Ebola treatment centres have also been established at the border points of Bwera, Fort Portal and Bundibugyo hospitals, in addition to vaccination of health care and frontline workers.

Ebola broke out in the DRC in August, and there are growing fears the disease will spread to neighbouring countries.

Last month, Uganda hosted a cross-border meeting with all EAC member countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Sudan), and gave updates on monitoring and surveillance.