JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN 13 JUNE 2019- South Sudan urgently needs US$ 12 million to sustain and improve Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) preparedness and prevention measures to protect people in the conflict-affected country. Today, the Ministry of Health together with the United Nations and its partners launched an updated plan on how to prevent the disease spreading from neighbouring countries and to adequately prepare for a possible outbreak in South Sudan.
Only two days ago, the first Ebola cases were confirmed in neighbouring Uganda, while in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) the number of EVD cases has surpassed 2,000. The World Health Organization has assessed the risk of the disease spreading to South Sudan as “very high”.
“The confirmed cases in Uganda are sobering reminders that the Ebola virus has no respect for borders,” said the Minister of Health Hon. Dr Riek Gai Kok. “With the outbreak in DRC not yet under control and spreading, we have to take urgent steps to further protect people in South Sudan and make sure we can respond quickly if the virus crosses into our country. On behalf of the government of South Sudan and our implementing partners, I appeal to our donors to bridge the funding gap and help us stay Ebola-free.”
The Ministry of Health, the UN and partners have been working collectively since August 2018 on prevention and readiness. The new plan builds on achievements from the previous period, identifies gaps and prioritizes activities for another six months. The most urgent steps going forward are improve the existing surveillance system with a greater focus on community- based surveillance; scale up training for front-line health workers; improve and increase number of isolation units and expand risk communication and community mobilization. In addition, a 72-hour outbreak response and containment plan and vaccine readiness strategy will be put in place.
“The cases in Uganda were detected early thanks to the preparedness measures in place and sends the message that investing in prevention and preparedness is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” said acting Humanitarian Coordinator for the UN in South Sudan, Dr. Olushayo Olu. “The cost of a fully-fledged outbreak is staggering compared to prevention, and would include immense human suffering, long- term economic damage, further depletion of an already weak healthcare system. We cannot allow it to happen.”
Since August 2018, generous and timely donor contributions have enabled a number of prevention and preparedness activities to take place, including setting up 25 screening sites at border entry points; the establishment of four isolation units with dedicated ambulances; the training of 900 frontline health care workers and community volunteers on signs, symptoms and protective measures, including infection prevention and control; the training and equipping of 28 Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to respond to alerts; and the pre-positioning of personal protective equipment (PPE) in high-risk locations including screening and surveillance points.
The Ministry of Health in South Sudan is leading the prevention and readiness efforts, supported by the United Nations and partners.