WHO Declares DRC Ebola Outbreak An International Emergency; Committee Cites Disease’s Spread, Violence Against Health Workers, Delays In Funding As Reasons

Associated Press: Ebola outbreak in Congo declared a global health emergency
“The deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo is now an international health emergency, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday after a case was confirmed in a city of 2 million people…” (Cheng/Keaten, 7/17).

Devex: Breaking: WHO declares global public health emergency in DRC Ebola outbreak
“…Robert Steffen, chair of the emergency committee, cited several reasons for the decision, including the recent spread of the disease in the city of Goma, the recurrence of ‘intense transmission’ of the disease in Beni, and the assassination of the two Ebola workers over the weekend, which Steffen said demonstrates the continued risks responders face on the ground…” (Ravelo, 7/17).

The Guardian: DRC Ebola epidemic is international emergency, says WHO
“…Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, appealed on Wednesday for the international community to help with funds. WHO is working on a new plan to control the epidemic, he said, which would cost ‘hundred of millions’ of dollars. ‘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 Tedros…” (Boseley, 7/17).

The Hill: WHO says Ebola is global emergency
“…The declaration is only the fifth time the WHO has labeled a viral outbreak a public health emergency of international concern [PHEIC]. Previously, the WHO has used the declaration to highlight the spread of swine flu in 2009, polio and the Ebola virus in 2014, and the Zika virus in 2016…” (Wilson, 7/17).

Los Angeles Times: Ebola outbreak in Congo is now a public health emergency, WHO declares
“…The international health agency had declined on three prior occasions to declare an international public health emergency, most recently in mid-June. … Experts worried the move could spark unintended economic and political consequences from other countries, including travel bans and trade freezes. Hostile reactions like these have worsened conditions during previous outbreaks, making it harder to get personnel and supplies into the hot zone…” (Baumgaertner, 7/17).

New York Times: Ebola Outbreak in Congo Is Declared a Global Health Emergency
“…The Congo outbreak began a year ago, with the first cases confirmed in August. As of Monday, the disease had infected 2,512 people and killed 1,676 of them. The virus has defied efforts to control its rampant spread in the northeastern part of the country, a conflict zone under unrelenting peril from warring militias…” (Grady, 7/17).

Quartz Africa: WHO has finally declared DR Congo’s Ebola crisis a global health emergency
“…In a statement for the declaration, WHO officials said the declaration should not be used by governments as a tool to hinder travel and trade in the affected regions. ‘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, in a statement” (Hadero, 7/17).

Reuters: Congolese Ebola victim may have entered Rwanda and Uganda — WHO
“A fishmonger who died this week of Ebola may have carried the virus from Congo into Rwanda as well as Uganda, the World Health Organization said, as health workers struggled to track down people she could have infected. … [T]he cases of the fishmonger and of a pastor who died this month after traveling to Goma, a city of 2 million and a gateway to other countries in the region, served to galvanize [the WHO emergency committee] into action…” (Miles et al., 7/18).

STAT: WHO declares Ebola outbreak an international health emergency
“…Mercy Corps, one of the NGOs working on the outbreak response, said it hoped the declaration of a PHEIC would translate into more support for the work that needs to be done in DRC. … The decision was applauded by some global health experts who have been frustrated by the fact it wasn’t taken earlier. ‘Almost all international legal and policy experts agree that the conditions for declaring a PHEIC were met long ago, so we are delighted to see that the emergency committee and the director general have finally come to this decision,’ said Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University…” (Branswell, 7/17).

Vox: The WHO finally declared a public health emergency over Ebola
“…For now, our collective focus should be on the DRC, said former U.S. ‘Ebola czar’ Ron Klain. The fact that this outbreak has been ‘spreading, unabated’ already should have been an international concern, he said in June, regardless of the official emergency designation. ‘What has been missing for some time is not a label, but rather, intensified international concern which is much needed and long overdue’…” (Belluz, 7/17).

Wall Street Journal: Ebola Epidemic in Congo Declared a Global Health Emergency
“…The committee on Wednesday expressed disappointment about delays in funding that have constrained the response. The WHO has received $112 million of funds pledged to help the effort, a spokeswoman said, but the outbreak has cost $233 million and the funding gap is expected to widen as the virus spreads…” (Bariyo, 7/17).

Washington Post: WHO declares Ebola in Congo to be emergency of ‘international concern’
“…U.S. officials have described as ‘arbitrary’ the WHO guidelines on declaring a public health emergency. … The fact that the CDC has already activated its own emergency operations center ‘speaks on its own,’ said J. Stephen Morrison, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and Inter­national Studies in Washington who has tracked the outbreak. ‘They see it as an emergency.’ But the United States’ presence on the ground is extremely limited, as CDC workers are barred from entering the zone of active infections, partly over security concerns stemming from clashes there…” (Bearak/Sun, 7/17).

Additional coverage of the WHO’s declaration of the DRC Ebola outbreak as a PHEIC, as well as history of this and other Ebola outbreaks, is available from Al Jazeera, Associated Press, Bloomberg, CIDRAP News, CNBC, CNN, Devex, Financial Times, Forbes, HealthDay News, Homeland Preparedness News, International Business Times, Nature, NBC News, New York Times, NPR (2), Reuters, SciDev.Net, Science, Science Speaks, TIME, U.N. Dispatch, UPI, and VOA News.

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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