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Ebola outbreak in DR Congo remains major threat to East Africa: WHO

Published : 12 Jun 2019, 21:44

  DF-Xinhua Report

Passengers queue to be screened at Uganda's Entebbe International Airport on May 15, 2018.File Photo Xinhua.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a major threat to the health and socio-economic wellbeing of the people of East Africa.

Tigest Ketsela Mengestu, WHO Country Representative for Tanzania, urged the East African Community (EAC) region to continue engaging in national and regional contingency plans needed to strengthen prevention, response and mitigation of health security risks.

She said the Ebola virus outbreak in the DRC has so far infected over 1,900 people and caused more than 1,300 deaths.

She was speaking at Namanga on the Tanzania-Kenya border during the official opening of a large-scale cross-border field simulation exercise, a fictitious outbreak of rift valley fever.

"The regional EAC cross-border field simulation exercise is a unique opportunity to test our collective public health preparedness and response capacities, clarify roles and responsibilities between different sectors and agencies and learn from each other," she said.

Mengestu added that the exercise will help the EAC countries to identify weaknesses and areas for further improvements in their response system and will equally help them identify the strengths needed to be sustained.

Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzania's Minister for Health, said cross-border field simulations will help to assess pandemic preparedness status and to identify existing gaps that compromised their efficiency in prevention, response and mitigation.

Mwalimu said the field simulation exercise was being convened at time when the Ebola epidemic in the DRC stood at the threshold of EAC and presented a major challenge to the health and socio-economic wellbeing of the people of East Africa.

"The outcome of the field simulation exercise will allow us to facilitate practical corrective actions at all levels," said the minister.

She said the Ebola virus has always been a stumbling block to human progress and it continued to foment massive loss of lives and livelihoods and disrupted economic and social lives across the world.