LOS ANGELES (September 16, 2019) Following UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s visit to the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last week, questions overshadowing the entire response still remain—what new and increased actions will be implemented to protect health workers and assets, and what is being done to expedite the approval of the Ebola vaccine?
The current outbreak has rumbled along since last August, gaining momentum and a saddening death toll that currently sits at just under 2,100 lives – mostly women and young children. Besides a delayed international emergency declaration, no innovative actions or decisions have been implemented in the current crisis—something that is drastically needed to get the outbreak under control.
“Lip service is something we have an abundance of. Unfortunately, what we don’t have enough of is confidence that adequate resources and attention are being given to the DRC and this current outbreak,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein.
“The United Nations has had a mandate [MONCUSO] in place in the DRC for nearly a decade,” added Weinstein. “Its sole purpose is peacekeeping, yet when the citizens of the Congo need it most—during the second worst Ebola outbreak in history—Mr. Guterres can’t seem to ensure the needed security. There are currently over twenty-thousand military and police personnel in-country—they need to be empowered to protect those bravely working to defeat the epidemic.”
Along with widespread insecurity throughout the outbreak zones that has left dozens of health workers injured or killed, a highly-effective Merck vaccine is also available – one that has not been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), despite its use since 2015 and an over 97% success rate. An approval would mean more resources would be dedicated to ensuring sufficient stockpiles are available for this and future outbreaks—a near guarantee given recent history.
As more officials plan visits to survey the affected areas, AHF urges WHO and the UN to do what is necessary to protect response personnel and assets and approve the vaccine. Too many lives are at stake to do otherwise.
For more information, please contact Ged Kenslea at [email protected] or (323) 791-5526