The United Nations is upping its efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Thursday, the UN appointed David Gressly as emergency Ebola response coordinator to try to contain the 10-month epidemic. Gressly, currently the deputy chief of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Congo, will team up with the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement a government response strategy that addresses political and security threats.
"We have no time to lose," Gressly said in a statement issued by the UN and WHO.
The second-deadliest Ebola outbreak has killed more than 1,240 people in the Congo, a third of whom are children, and the virus is spreading. The experimental Ebola vaccine has been given to more than 100,000 people but insecurity and disruptions have complicated the treatment process.
"The #Ebola outbreak in #DRC is still ongoing – not because we don’t have the tools or skills we need. We have demonstrated that we know how to stop Ebola. It is still ongoing on because we do not have the sustained access to communities that we need to finish the job"-@DrTedrospic.twitter.com/pF328MiXf5— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 21, 2019
The DRC is currently involved in a civil war, and violent militias have attacked health care workers, responders, and community members treating Ebola patients, making it more difficult to stop the disease. Some residents of the Congo don’t believe the virus is real and are convinced it’s a money-making scheme or a political ploy. More support is needed to help deliver aid to communities, according to the UN and WHO.
“It's important that people be secure, responders be secure,” Gressly told the BBC, “and they have the confidence that they can continue to provide support to the victims of the Ebola epidemic."
The epidemic has yet to be called a global health emergency, but Gressly will oversee the coordination of international support for the Ebola response. Ebola has been contained in parts of the Congo’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces, but could soon spread to neighboring countries Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan.
The international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) says that educating communitites about how to contain Ebola is also crucial to keep the virus under control.