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UNICEF assists National response to Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Support provided to emergency treatment, safe water and community awareness-raising

KAMPALA, 4 December 2007 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), expressing concern over the recent Ebola outbreak in western Uganda, today reaffirmed its commitment to support the national emergency response to contain the disease’s spread.

With the epidemic still considered to be unfolding, all support would be provided toward a robust emergency response, said the UN children’s agency.

UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Keith McKenzie, said that the immediate priority must be on making sure that the ill are cared for and that health personnel are protected. “The commitment of health workers is crucial in such a situation. We must provide continued support to the health workers, remembering the great risk in which they are placing themselves, often selflessly, to serve their communities,” he said.

The Ugandan Ministry of Health, on 29 November, confirmed an outbreak of Ebola in Bubukwanga and Kasitu Sub-counties of western Bundibugyo District. Health authorities have since reported that at least 18 people have died and more than 70 are suspected to have contracted the virus. It is believed that this particular virus represents a previously unknown strain.

UNICEF, along with partner organisations such as the World Health Organization, Médecins sans Frontières (Swiss) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is assisting the Ministry of  Health and District Local Governments to implement the outbreak response. Support provided to date include the provision of medical equipment (worth US$500,000), such as Emergency Health Kits to serve
up to 10,000 people for three months at Ebola Isolation Units established in Bundibugyo Hospital and Kikya Health Centre IV; 100 cartons of Oral Rehydration Salts; 100 cartons of Ringers Lactate; 500kgs of medicated soap; 100 heavy-duty aprons and gloves, and other treatment and protective gear.

UNICEF is also supporting emergency water and sanitation interventions in Bundibugyo Hospital and Kikya Health Centre IV, and through its existing collaboration with Bundibugyo District, has provided approximately US$135,000 in emergency funds toward the district’s Ebola preparedness and response plan, involving payment for isolation units staff, monitoring, reporting and disease surveillance activities.

In addition, the development of key messages on identifying, referring and containing the spread of Ebola is being supported for dissemination through schools, places of worship and other community-based structures.

Ebola spreads through body fluids, especially blood, and places health workers without protective equipment at risk. An outbreak in northern Uganda’s Gulu District in 2000 is estimated to have killed 170 people.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:

Chulho Hyun, Chief, Communication, UNICEF Uganda, +256 (0)772 222 347, chyun@unicef.org

Shannon Strother, Chief, Field Services, UNICEF Uganda, +256 (0)782 735 886, sstrother@unicef.org




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