While response efforts inside DRC need to be redoubled; preparedness efforts in high-risk neighbouring countries are also urgently being stepped-up.
The quick and effective response in Uganda has demonstrated the value of investing in preparedness. The three confirmed cases were rapidly detected and isolated. Uganda benefits from strong Government leadership and extensive experience with Ebola outbreaks and other hemorrhagic diseases, however, without the investments in preparedness made over the past nine months, Ebola could have spread.
While urgent action is required to arrest the DRC outbreak and ensure neighbouring countries are prepared to respond, Ebola may become endemic in the region and cannot be address solely with short-term humanitarian action. Increased advocacy is required with Governments and development partners to put in place longer-term plans and strategies to tackle Ebola in a similar vein to other endemic diseases, such as cholera, and for more sustained multi-year funding streams to mitigate and respond to recurrent outbreaks.
An estimated additional US$80 million is still required to achieve minimal preparedness in the priority countries. In Uganda, vaccinations, expanding preparedness to all priority districts, and ramping-up community engagement, all remain paramount for mitigating the risk. And yet all are under-resourced. Unlike Uganda, the other three priority countries (Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi) do not have experience in dealing with Ebola outbreaks and thus – with a particular focus on South Sudan and Burundi – require a higher level of international support, including through funding for key preparedness measures.
Operational readiness in each at-risk country requires understanding of the operational environment.
- In Uganda, there are increasing reports of tensions between Congolese refugees and Ugandan host communities that require additional conflict-mitigation measures, including engagement with both communities and Governments.
- In South Sudan, although there is a large humanitarian infrastructure, insecurity as well as limited national capacity remain key concerns.
- In Burundi, progress in undertaking preparedness has been impacted by overarching political dynamics, including between the Government and donor community.
- In Rwanda, there is a need for discussion on the measures that may be taken if the DRC outbreak reaches Goma on a large scale.