Ebola and War in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Avoiding Failure and Thinking Ahead
Journal of the American Medical Association, 2018
Posted: 13 Dec 2018
Date Written: November 29, 2018
The Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is exceptionally dangerous, occurring within active armed conflict and geopolitical volatility, including a million displaced persons. With 421 cases, 240 deaths, and the numbers increasing, this Ebola outbreak is the second deadliest in history. Recent spread to Butembo, home to 1.2 million people, raised concerns. The DRC, World Health Organization (WHO), and partners are leading a vigorous international response, yet despite deploying an experimental vaccine, cases doubled in October 2018 and many cases had unknown origin.
Uncontrolled Ebola outbreaks can expand quickly, as occurred in West Africa in 2014. Averting that outcome in the DRC requires rapid action including a strengthened public health response, security, and community outreach. If violence escalates, it could compromise a fragile response. Yet resources are insufficient. The United States and other countries are not permitting personnel deployment to the epicenter, including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Agency for International Development (USAID).
In this Viewpoint, we review recommendations of experts convened by Georgetown University and listed at the end of this article. The United States and international community should launch high-level political mobilization, with diplomatic, human, and economic resources. It is critical to recognize that future health crises will occur in fragile, insecure settings. To prepare, the international community needs long-term planning and enhanced capacities to improve the safety and effectiveness of epidemic response operations.
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