Ebola Response In DRC Must Involve Building Trust With Affected Communities, Ensuring Local Engagement, Focusing On Strengthening Health Systems

STAT: The real public health emergency of international concern: the DRC
Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

“…[T]he response [to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)] will need to go beyond the immediate Ebola crisis and address much deeper long-term issues that have plagued the region … Because in truth it is not just Ebola, but more broadly the situation in the DRC itself, that represents a public health emergency, and one that really should be of international concern. … [P]ublic health in the DRC is in a state of emergency. … [I]t is … important that part of the response involves building trust within the affected communities, to ensure that efforts are not perceived by locals as being undertaken merely to protect others, and then leaving once the job is done. This can be achieved by ensuring there is local engagement and leadership in the response, and by making sure that in addition to tackling the virus there is as much focus on strengthening health systems in affected areas and building strong and sustainable primary health care to address the broader health issues these communities face. … By working through this sort of government-led initiative and with the support of President Tshisekedi, it may [be] possible to begin to rebuild trust and halt the epidemic, while reducing outbreaks of other infectious disease and improving disease surveillance at the same time. If we are to stop this epidemic and prevent future ones from spiraling out of control, then we need to recognize that this Ebola outbreak should not be viewed in isolation, but must be seen as a symptom of a deeper public health crisis” (7/25).

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