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Press Release

Ebola outbreak in Democatic Republic of Congo and Uganda not declared an international emergency

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As the Ebola outbreak in Uganda has not been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls for a reset and redoubling of efforts to combat the disease. The IRC has been on the ground in the DRC since the outbreak was declared in August working to train health workers to screen for and recognize Ebola symptoms and safely triage and transfer suspected cases to Ebola Treatment Centers (ETCs).

Bob Kitchen, International Rescue Committee’s Vice President for Emergencies, said,

“Although the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and now Uganda was not declared an international emergency today, the spread of Ebola to Uganda is a clear signal that the international community must reset and redouble its efforts to work with the Congolese people and stop the spread of the disease here in the DRC. While Uganda is well prepared to handle this outbreak in the country, as long as the disease continues to spread in the DRC, we will continue to see cases cross international borders and into neighboring countries. The DRC now has more than 2,000 confirmed cases.

“People move across the border to Uganda every day, whether to flee violence and seek shelter, to conduct business or receive healthcare. In order to stop the Ebola virus from spreading further, we must first stop it here. Preparedness and response efforts in Uganda and in neighboring countries must ensure the voices of the local communities, including women and children, are being engaged from day one.

“We hope the spread across borders will spring the international community into action and wake the world up to the severity of the situation. A rapid scale up in preparedness programs is needed immediately. What’s more, we must rethink every piece to this response and ensure we are viewing every detail from the community aspect; that we are addressing the terrible humanitarian situation in North Kivu, DRC and we are doing everything we can to gain the trust of the community. The people most affected by this outbreak must have their voices heard. Real community engagement means going beyond dialogue and changing programming based on community feedback. A dedicated person focused on this aspect of the response should be part of the senior coordination with a mandate to work closely with existing health and protection efforts to meaningfully engage communities.”

The IRC has been responding to the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu since its declaration in August last year working in more than 50 health facilities and leading on infection prevention and control (IPC) and working in women’s and children’s protection, integrating Ebola-related protection concerns in areas where IRC supports primary health care services.

In Uganda, the IRC is working to strengthen disease surveillance and outbreak response in high-risk border districts and ensure provision of high-quality, life-saving, primary healthcare services for Congolese new arrivals and Uganda host communities.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.