Hey! Remember last month when the World Health Organization was like 'nah, let's not declare this outbreak of a viral hemorrhagic fever that's killed over 1,000 people this time around a public health emergency of international concern'? They were afraid that the flow of aid could be impeded into the outbreak's hot zone, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as nations around the world closed their borders to flights in and out of the disease and civil war-addled nation. Welp, screw that: earlier today, the WHO back-peddled on their nah, transforming it into a slightly panicked Yeah.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today declared the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
"It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system," said Dr. Tedros. "Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders — coming from not just WHO but also government, partners and communities — to shoulder more of the burden."
At the time that this post was well, posted, the count for the number of individuals known to have died due to Ebola had risen to 1676 deaths (1582 confirmed, 94 probable) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What made the WHO change their minds on declaring an emergency? The fact that a case of the virus was detected in Goma: the capital of North Kivu province, located in the country's east. It's a city of close to more than one million people and, as it's located on Lake Kivu, wicked close to the Rwandan border city of Gisenyi. What this means is that this virulent shit is spreading beyond the area where the medical and scientific community embedded in the DRC are set up to fight the disease—things are getting out of hand.
Currently, the WHO's doubling down on their shaming of the world's governments for not coming through on the funding required to fight the outbreak and reminding those with their fingers on their nation's purse strings that it's not too late to stop the onslaught of miserable deaths that have already taken so many:
The Committee expressed disappointment about delays in funding which have constrained the response. They also reinforced the need to protect livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak by keeping transport routes and borders open. It is essential to avoid the punitive economic consequences of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities.
"It is important that the world follows these recommendations. It is also crucial that states do not use the PHEIC as an excuse to impose trade or travel restrictions, which would have a negative impact on the response and on the lives and livelihoods of people in the region," said Professor Robert Steffen, chair of the Emergency Committee.
Image via WHO/Chris Black