Uganda has not confirmed an Ebola case but the scale of the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, presents a formidable risk of spread beyond the current epicenter due to challenges related to case containment and large numbers of people who daily cross the common border for several socio-economic reasons said Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Minister of Health.
Aceng made the remarks during a cross-border meeting on Ebola Outbreak in Goma, DRC at Í’Hotel Linda on Wednesday, 05th December 2018.
DRC ministry of health says the case counts now stand at 471 cases and 273 deaths. The WHO says a quarter of the cases are children 14 years and below and of these 21 children have died. Some of the cases are also of pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.
Traffic between the porous borders is heavy and people come and go to trade, for health services, education, and cultural relationships and refugee influx. The resultant risk of transmission could be within DRC, across borders or refugees hosting communities, a statement from Ministry of Health Uganda says.
“Against this background, this meeting comes timely to agree on high-level coordination mechanisms and common platform to address common challenges in containing the outbreak,” said Aceng.
Aceng was leading a team from Uganda to learn from DRC experiences and lessons learned from the ongoing outbreak, that has since become the second largest outbreak in history overtaking Uganda as well to agree on a harmonized mechanism for responding to the common epidemic across our common borders.
The two countries agreed to strengthen information exchange to enable; contact tracing, alert verification or joint epidemiological investigations. Also to strengthen cross-border surveillance by encouraging collaboration between the local health zone in DRC and the border district in Uganda as well as joint risk assessments and joint response, in case of Ebola cases on the borderline.
They also agreed to map common crossing points with significant population movements for
joint screening and monitoring and deploy technical experts between the two countries when required.
Uganda and DRC have been prone to Ebola outbreaks in the last two decades. Uganda has had 5 outbreaks mostly along its western regions close to the DRC. All the outbreaks were controlled at the source with
very limited spread beyond the localities of original incidence.
Uganda is currently considered a high-risk country in Africa due to its proximity to the DRC or an outbreak within the country. Accordingly, the districts in the country have been categorized by risk into three to
guide planning and response as High, Moderate and Low-risk districts.
Response strategies and capacities based on the six pillars are being developed to scale; coordination and resource mobilization, surveillance and Laboratory, Case management and IPC, risk communication and mobilization, Mental Health and psychosocial support, EVD Ring Vaccination, Therapeutics and Research,