Ebola Is Spreading in the DRC. Here's How UK Aid Is Working to Stop It.
Speed is paramount in stopping this outbreak before it becomes a repeat of 2014.
Aug. 24 update: A new Ebola outbreak was declared in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the beginning of this month. In the current outbreak, 55 people have died and 69 people are confirmed to be infected. It's the 10th time the DRC has been hit by Ebola since 1976 — more than double the number of outbreaks in any other country. UK aid is continuing its work in the DRC to limit the spread of the disease.
The first cases of Ebola were reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) earlier this month, and it has already spread from the countryside into cities.
The outbreak is believed to have killed at least 25 people to date, according to the BBC, and a further 45 cases have been reported — including three health workers.
Yet speed in stopping the outbreak in its tracks is paramount to avoid a repeat of the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed more than 11,300 people across west Africa.
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While this month’s outbreak began in rural areas, it has already spread to the north-western city of Mbandaka. As a major transport hub on the River Congo, with a population of a million, it has now sparked fears that the outbreak could now reach the capital city of Kinshasa, as well as crossing into neighbouring countries.
Now, a UK aid-backed vaccination campaign has begun, with the first vaccinations to be carried out on Monday.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is supported by UK aid funding, has already delivered thousands of doses of the vaccine directly to areas that need it. The DRC government, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will lead on carrying out the vaccinations.
“The UK’s robust response to the Ebola outbreak demonstrates how seriously we take such health threats around the world — and how quickly we act to contain them,” said Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s international development secretary.
She said that UK aid’s support for Gavi “has already helped to ensure thousands of vaccines have arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo ready for distribution, and more are on their way.”
“Our contributions are helping to limit the spread of Ebola, making the world — including the UK — a safer place,” she said.
The vaccine was reportedly developed in trials funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and London-based research charity the Wellcome Trust after the devastating 2014 outbreak.
While it’s not yet licensed, according to Reuters, it has been proven to be safe and effective in trials.
It will first be given to people who are suspected of having come into contact with Ebola, including health workers.
Ebola is infectious and can spread rapidly through contact with even small amounts of bodily fluid, according to the BBC, and it’s early flu-like symptoms aren’t always obvious. It causes internal bleeding and can often be fatal.
But for every confirmed case, according to the WHO, there are up to 150 people who could have come into contact with the disease and would be eligible for vaccination.
The UK is also the largest donor to the UN’s Central Fund for Emergencies, and the second largest donor to the WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies which are helping drive the rapid response. Both organisations have released $2 million to fund surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment operations.
The UK’s Department for International Development has also made £1 million available from its joint research initiative on epidemic preparedness with the Wellcome Trust, alongside a further £2 million available from Wellcome.
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