Health ministers from 10 African countries have come together to identify what they hope will be a more effective way of dealing with the Ebola virus.
In a meeting held in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Oct. 22, the DRC’s health ministers and senior immigration officials led a discussion on what steps need to be taken to manage the ongoing outbreak in DRC, and ensure it doesn’t spread to neighbouring countries.
One of the most important outcomes of the meeting is the creation of the African Ebola Coordination Task Force (AfECT).
The task force will essentially put in place systems to better prepare and respond to Ebola outbreaks, and stop the disease crossing national borders.
Once launched, the plan is that the task force will work with partners including the World Health Organization (WHO). AfECT will be based at the African Union secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Other countries that will be represented in the task force are Rwanda, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Burundi, Tanzania, Angola, and the Central Africa Republic.
Ruth Jane Aceng, the health minister of Uganda, said: “This task force will have political oversight over outbreaks like Ebola, while WHO maintains technical capacity and advice that it gives to the countries.”
The current Ebola outbreak in the DRC was first declared in August 2018. The outbreak — the second deadliest to hit the country — has so far claimed more than 2,000 lives.
Meanwhile Doctors Without Borders has said that at least 50 new cases of Ebola are reported in DRC every week. The outbreak has also been declared a global health emergency by the WHO.
Following the outbreak, Uganda also announced in June that three citizens had been positively diagnosed with the virus. One of them has since passed away.
Collins Boakye Agyemang, communications official at the WHO, Africa region, said the main priority for the task team is implementing prevention strategies that are similar to each other in all of the nine neighbouring countries.
Another priority will be centralising how information relating to outbreaks is communicated regionally, as well as putting in place systems to improve the cross-border response to Ebola cases.
Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Burundi are likely to provide cross-border Ebola case and laboratory surveillance, according to Agyemang.
The task team also has to monitor people travelling within the region and internationally, and alert the international community when a patient with Ebola travels to their countries.