KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a “public health emergency of international concern”.
The WHO has been under pressure to declare an international emergency. The epidemic is the second-deadliest in history. The fatality rate of Ebola in this outbreak is at around 66 per cent.
This declaration comes after reports of the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda. Infection there could lead to risk of it spreading even wider across the region.
This is the highest level of alarm classification for the WHO and has only been used four times previously.
Just last Friday, it was decided that the outbreak did not constitute a public health emergency of international concern. The situation in Goma changed that determination.
The outbreak in the DRC has already claimed the lives of more than 1,600 people.
However for the moment, WHO has stated that borders should not be closed, with no restrictions on travel or trade, or entry screening of passengers at ports or airports outside the immediate region.
During a press conference yesterday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO said “The risk of Ebola spread in DRC and the region remains very high, and the risk of spread outside the region remains low.”
A public health emergency of international concern is defined by WHO as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease” and “to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
The move is also like to motivate donors especially wealthy countries to provide funding in response to the humanitarian crisis. There have been significant delays in money going to help in the response.