By Richard Chirombo:
Barely two weeks after the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that a five-year-old boy had died of ebola in Uganda, the first appearance of the highly contagious disease outside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since an outbreak began there a year ago, funding constraints continue to hamper efforts.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said this during a telephone media briefing, held from Congo Brazzaville, which The Daily Times was part of on Friday.
Malawian soldiers participate in the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission (Monusco) in the DRC while hundreds of Malawians travel to the Southern African Development Community member states every year.
Under Monusco, Malawi, South Africa and Tanzanian soldiers contribute to peace efforts by battling groups such as M-23, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the Ugandan Alliance of Democratic Forces and other smaller groups.
Last year, DRC registered a new ebola outbreak, the second largest on record, which has infected more than 2,000 people and caused 1,390 deaths since it was discovered in July 2018. The number of cases has accelerated in recent weeks, health officials said.
A new vaccine introduced to deal with the problem appears to be effective but WHO indicates that tracking down infected people has been a problem because the outbreak is in a chronic conflict zone in the eastern region of the DRC.
At the press briefing, Moeti also said it would be premature to say that there is one magic bullet for ebola.
“We can’t say there’s one magic bullet. It requires a combination of measures that are already being put in place. I believe, for example, that the advances that have been made in research and the fact that we now have an effective vaccine that has been deployed, in this outbreak, has made a very significant difference in terms of the spread of the outbreak, the numbers of deaths, etc, even as we acknowledge that this is a very serious outbreak,” Moeti said.
The official said preparedness was key to dealing with the ebola menace.
However, such efforts were being hampered by the problem of resource constraints.
“Despite the crucial nature of ebola preparedness funding, we are regretting the fact that funding for this aspect of the work has slowed down. So, over the last few four months, we have received relatively little funding for continuing the ebola preparedness in the surrounding countries and actually have about 40 percent funding gap in relation to the amount that the WHO had estimated is necessary.
“So, lack of funding has reached a crucial juncture, and I would just like to quote what the Emergency Committee on the Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said in their statement, that they are ‘deeply disappointed that WHO and the affected countries have not received the funding and resources needed for this outbreak’,” Moeti said.
In September 2018, Malawian officials announced that the country was out of ebola danger, after fears grew that the country was at risk through those deployed on peace missions and migration of asylum seekers from the DRC.
Malawi’s Coordinator for Institute of Disease Control, Mathews Kagoli, said this when soldiers that had just returned from peace-keeping mission in the DRC tested negative to the disease.