WHO says it has no more cash to fight Ebola

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The World Health Organisation has made a fresh and urgent appeal for donors to keep supporting their work to fight the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than $148 million is needed and so far pledges have only reached $10 million.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday said a lack of fund would erode crucial gains made in the battle against the virus.

“The situation is unprecedented: there has never been an Ebola outbreak in these conditions, with such a highly mobile population and with many gaps in the health system,” said Dr Tedros.

The WHO boss is scheduled to meet the new DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa on his next mission to the country, before travelling to the Ebola-stricken areas of Butembo and Katwa.

“The security context is another major concern. I am deeply saddened by reports that a health facility run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Katwa was attacked on Sunday night. Nevertheless, together with partners and with the Democratic Republic of the Congo government in the lead, we have made major gains. Hundreds of deaths have been averted, maybe even thousands. But the outbreak is not over and we urgently need additional funding to see it through.”

This new round of Ebola treatment has seen over 80,000 people vaccinated, 400 treated and thousands being monitored, even in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Sudan.

In a statement, the WHO said it had shipped over 300 metric tons of supplies, including vaccination supplies and 470,000 sets of personal protective equipment for partners running treatment centres.

Response partners have contained the outbreak in successive health zones, however, the on-going transmission in Butembo and Katwa has potential for the outbreak to reach even more volatile and dangerous areas – hence the need for urgent support.

A response plan for February to July 2019 was launched by DR Congo’s Health Minister on 13 February, and focus will be on improving local health system structures, strengthening the capacities of local responders, and deepening the involvement of surrounding communities.

“We have a shared responsibility to end this outbreak,” said Dr Tedros, adding that the continuing generous technical and financial support from the donor community is proof of the global commitment to stopping the outbreak.  “We now need them to join us in the final push. No country or partner can face this deadly virus alone. The impact on public health and the economic ramifications can expand far beyond one country or continent.”

The death toll since the outbreak began in August, 2018 has now topped 543.