DRC, IOM, WHO partner to stop Ebola spread to neighbours

The UN Migration Agency, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) World Health Organisation (WHO) have collaborated to stop the spread of Ebola to Kinshasa and neighbouring countries.

The International Organisation on Migration (IOM) Chief of Mission in the DRC, Jean Chauzy, said this in a statement in IOM’s site on Saturday.

“Last week, in the DRC, cases of Ebola were confirmed in Mbandaka, a city with a population of 1.2 million people some 150 kilometres from where the outbreak originated in Bikoro Health Zone, Equateur Province.

“Mbandaka is connected by river routes to DRC’s capital, Kinshasa and cities in the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. This fuelled concerns that the disease could spread more widely,” Chauzy stated.

She said that there were joint assessments by the stakeholders at various points of entry to the capital to gauge the strength of the area’s epidemiological surveillance system

“The assessment focused on migration routes from the affected province of Equateur through the ports of Maluku and Kinkole on the Congo River and at the Beach Ngobila in the capital, Kinshasa.

“The assessment team found boats in the ports, which often travel between Kinshasa and the Equateur Province, stopping at several ports and carrying a few hundred people at a time.

“Sanitary conditions were very poor and health screenings non-existent at these ports,” she said.

Chauzy quoted one boat captain as saying his “boat carries hundreds of passengers to different localities along the Congo river from Kinshasa, Kisangani through Mbandaka.

According to her, the assessments, carried out with the National Border Health Programme, enabled response teams to immediately identify practical measures to strengthen health surveillance around the capital city.

“These include training, equipping and deploying response teams to the river ports, whilst carrying out community mobilisation activities in villages upstream on the Congo River.

“There is a need to ensure that there are strong health screenings, hygiene and sanitation measures in place in this environment where there is high risk for transmission” said Chauzy,

She said that the ports did not meet international standards for boarding and disembarking and that lack of effective surveillance could lead to Ebola cases being found in Kinshasa.

“It is important that ports in Kinshasa are included in preparedness efforts. Kinshasa is connected to Mbandaka and Bikoro through the Congo River and Lake Tumba for Bikoro.

“From Kinshasa, travelers can reach any place in the world. Kinshasa is a home of more than 60 private and small ports along way Congo River.

“Travel and trade of cities along the Congo, Kasai and Ubangi rivers are intense.”

Dr Teresa Zakaria from the WHO’s Surge Team said strengthening public health capacities for early detection and response to Ebola as well as other infectious diseases was important in points of connection such as the two ports.

Zakaria said as of 22 May 2018, three health zones in the Equateur Province were affected, including Bikoro, Iboko and Wangata, with 58 cases including 27 deaths.

Since the beginning of the outbreak declaration, IOM has been conducting Population Mobility Mapping at the border points and in the affected areas to quantity and gather information on population movement.

IOM is also supporting the deployment of a team of epidemiologists, veterinarians, and hygiene specialists from the Ministry of Health to affected areas and nearby border areas.

These teams are currently conducting health screenings and risk communication activities, while also putting in placs infection prevention and control measures at 16 key point of entry to Equateur, Mai-Ndombe and Kinshasa.

IOM is appealing to donors 1.3 million dollars to continue and expand its reponse to the Ebola outbreak. (NAN)
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