On Tuesday, 24 July, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced the end of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The life threatening viral infection had broken out in the province of Équateur in the northwest of the country at the end of April. The disease claimed 33 lives out of a total of 54 cases.
Lessons from the Ebola outbreak of 2014/15
Building on the lessons learned from the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014/15, the international management of health crises has been revamped since 2015 – not least with support from the German Government.
The WHO has restructured itself in order to better respond to emergency situations and has, among other things, improved its measures for early detection and dissemination of information. In the event of acute outbreaks, it is important to have reliable data to hand quickly in order to facilitate a targeted response.
The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was also the first to witness the use of a new vaccine that prevented further transmission of the virus by immunising the health workers and contact persons of those infected with Ebola.
Moreover, financial resources for an immediate response are now available via the WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE).
Germany lent its active support to the reform process with a group of other countries and is now the biggest donor to the CFE having contributed 19.8 million Euro to date. This facilitated a rapid crisis response also following the Ebola outbreak.
Furthermore, emergency medical teams stand at the ready in order to provide rapid on site assistance in the event of a crisis. These include teams of doctors and mobile laboratories and logistics units from German civil society, whose exceptional expertise is in demand internationally. During the Ebola outbreak, nine German experts were deployed in the region, including a doctor from the Charité in Berlin.
Tobias Bergner, Coordinator for the Foreign Policy Dimension of Global Health Issues, had the following to say about this:
Health crisis management depends on the effective coordination of all stakeholders – at both the national and the international level and among state and non state actors. The better their cooperation, the more effectively an epidemic can be fought. The efforts to tackle the outbreak in the Congo demonstrated the effectiveness of joint action once again. The new crisis response mechanisms created following the Ebola crisis in West Africa were successfully applied.