The World Health Organization on Wednesday formally labelled the deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo an international health emergency.
Goma, a city with an international airport located in north-eastern Congo on the Rwandan border, reported its first Ebola case this week. Since August 2018, 1,600 hundred people have died in the second deadliest outbreak of the virus in history.
After the announcement was made in Geneva, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the risk outside the region remained low even with the high risk of regional spread. He added, “The (international emergency) should not be used to stigmatise or penalise the very people who are most in need of our help.”
A global emergency is considered an “extraordinary event” by WHO, in which other countries are at risk and which requires a coordinated international response. It is the fifth time in history that such a declaration has been made. Previous emergencies were declared for polio eradication, the Zika virus infection in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic, and the latest one where more than 11,000 people died in the devastating Ebola outbreak of 2014–2016. The current outbreak is gripping the turbulent Congo border region, where many rebel groups are active who had previously not been exposed to Ebola. Distrusting locals mounted deadly attacks on health workers, thereby limiting the efforts to contain the virus.