WASHINGTON, D.C., June 13, 2019—As Ebola advances beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda, IMA World Health is intensifying efforts to contain the spread before it becomes a greater global emergency.
This week, two family members who crossed into Uganda from DRC died of the disease.
The urgency now is that Ebola could reach international crossroads such as Goma in DRC and Kampala, Uganda, both home to more than 1 million people.
"The international community must mobilize now to ensure the virus doesn’t reach this regional nexus and spread more widely," says Allyson Bear, vice president for health programs at the recently merged IMA World Health and Lutheran World Relief.
Even the support of the international community may not be enough, Bear says, unless it is accompanied by intensive efforts to engage local communities and train local health workers.
This Ebola outbreak is already the second-largest in history. Distrust, misinformation and armed conflict have hampered known protocols, such as contact tracing, community alerts, patient isolation and vaccination. Such interventions have been effective strategies in addressing past outbreaks.
“The mistrust and fear gripping communities after years of civil war and the prevalence of misinformation are undermining the fight against Ebola,” says IMA World Health’s Dr. William Clemmer, who has worked in the DRC for more than two decades. “This is the third Ebola outbreak that I’ve been involved in while serving in the Congo. But this one has been the most challenging by far.”
IMA World Health has been a leader in building and strengthening DRC’s health system and in the fight against Ebola. Working in the country since 1995, IMA World Health works closely with local partners and the DRC Ministry of Health, promoting training and tools to address more needs more effectively.
The international NGO works in 52 health zones providing access to basic health services to an estimated 9 million people.
“The international community on its own is not going to be able to solve this,” Dr. Clemmer says. “The most effective way to correct misinformation, engender trust, and effectively contain this outbreak is to involve and engage the community.”
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