The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) met today, and has advised me that in its view the Ebola outbreak in the DRC continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. I have accepted that advice.
Tremendous progress has been made containing this outbreak in very difficult circumstances. Up until Friday, 54 days had passed without a confirmed case being reported, and 40 days had passed since the last person known to have Ebola tested negative and was discharged from treatment.
Since Friday, three new cases have been confirmed – two in people who died in the community, and one person who was in contact with one of them. The source of their infection is still under investigation. It is likely that additional cases will be identified.
Flare-ups are expected at the tail-end of Ebola outbreaks. Our teams in Beni are experienced in responding to new cases, and acted quickly to engage with affected communities, investigate alerts, identify and vaccinate contacts, decontaminate affected homes and health facilities, and send samples for sequencing.
The Committee noted that armed groups are active in the area where these cases were identified, a lack of funding is constraining the response, and the COVID-19 pandemic is adding more challenges to an already complex operation.
We have to anticipate and be prepared for additional small outbreaks. We need the full force of all partners to bring these outbreaks under control and to meet the needs of the people affected.
I thank the members of the Committee for their advice. And I thank the government and people of DRC, the responders, partners and WHO colleagues, who are dedicated to ending this outbreak.