For over a year now, DRC has struggled to contain an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 2,100 people, becoming the second largest in history, after a 2013-16 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,300.
DRC’s neighbours that include Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia have implemented several precautionary and reactionary measures as the virus extended towards their borders.
It is a good thing for the DRC to formalize a framework for collaboration and adopt a road map with its neighbouring countries on Ebola preparedness and response.
“Setting up a mechanism for cross-border collaboration and the sharing of assets will contribute to the mitigation of suffering and minimize the social and economic impact of disease outbreaks,” said H.E. Amira Elfadil Mohammed, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs.
Authorities in Uganda have detected positive Ebola cases at their border points, while Rwanda, Tanzania and Malawi have been the subject of suspected Ebola cases.
In this article, we explore how DRC and its neighbours have responded to the Ebola threat, geographically.
Ebola spreads in DRC’s regions
The current Ebola outbreak, which is the tenth in DRC, was declared on 1 August 2018, in North Kivu. The outbreak has since spread to the Ituri province in the North, and southwards to South Kivu.
Cases have been recorded in the major cities of Beni, Butembo and Goma. Beni and Butembo are approximately 100km from the Ugandan border, while Goma borders Rwanda and is seen as a regional and international gateway.
“It is a good thing for the DRC to formalize a framework for collaboration and adopt a road map with its neighbouring countries on Ebola preparedness and response. In this way, we will be able to pull our resources together to strengthen health security and safety,” DRC’s deputy health minister Dr Albert Biyombo said on Tuesday.
The WHO, which has expressed concern about the widening geographic reach of the disease within the DRC, declared the epidemic an international health emergency in July, after the first Ebola case was recorded in Goma.
While urging countries not to close borders or restrict trade, the global body warned that Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda are the most at risk, while Central African Republic, Angola, Tanzania, Republic of Congo and Zambia are in a second tier.
Uganda records cross-border Ebola cases
In June this year, Uganda announced that it had detected three positive Ebola cases in its territory, representing the first cross-border cases since the outbreak started.
Authorities reacted quickly, isolating the cases and repatriating them to the DRC. A new case was detected in August, but no new cases have been recorded in Uganda since then.
Uganda, which has been praised by the WHO for containing the spread of the virus, has implemented a massive vaccination campaign, as part of its preventive and precautionary measures.