WHO Director-General Visits Uganda to assess Ebola Response

Kampala, 17 June 2019: – The Ministry of Health received the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to assess the response to the current Ebola outbreak in Kasese District, Western Uganda.

Dr. Tedros held meetings in Entebbe while on his way from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where he visited the Ebola hotspots, Butembo and Katwa. This is his third visit to Uganda since the Ebola outbreak was declared in August 2018 in DRC.

Dr. Tedros was received by the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng at Protea Hotel in Entebbe at 7:00 PM. In his remarks, he pledged continued support to Uganda to contain this outbreak. “We will continue to support you in mobilizing global or regional support and to finish this outbreak as soon as possible”

“We are not in the clear until the outbreak in DRC is finished,” Dr Tedros commented on the declining trends in Butembo and Katwa. He said, “There is a decline in Butembo and Katwa. In my discussions with my colleagues, we agreed that we have to be very careful; this is a moment of cautious optimism because the Ebola situation in DRC has been going up and down repeatedly, so it can change any time.”

He added that Mabalako, where the Ebola outbreak was first confirmed in August 2018, has once again become a hotspot of new infections.

Dr. Tedros explained that, while the outbreak was not considered to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the Emergency Committee of experts he convened on 18 June, “It is a serious problem and we have to give it our best and that is what we have agreed and we are doing everything. I just visited one vaccination site in Katwa where we have started the adjusted dose and this will help us make the best possible use of the vaccines.”

He also said that in December 2018, WHO requested MERCK to produce more doses of the ‘Ebola-rVSV’ vaccine.

In her remarks, the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said that the transition from preparedness mode to response mode was not difficult given that Uganda had invested ten months in preparing for Ebola. However, she said, “the challenge is that now we have to mobilize resources for the response phase. Obviously, there was fatigue during the 10 months of preparations. I witnessed this in the last accountability meeting when we shared plans for the next phase of preparedness and were requesting partners to contribute.”

She also noted that there was a lot of fatigue among the donors and health workers on the ground, especially those screening at border points. “Being away from their families for so long is not easy,” she said.

However, she said, the health workers continue to be committed to doing the screening at the Points of Entry.

Dr. Aceng further appreciated the WHO for procuring the Ebola vaccines. To date, more than 4,000 frontline and healthcare workers have been vaccinated in Uganda. “During the response phase of the outbreak, we have been able to receive about 400 doses of the vaccine from the DRC but we also want to thank you for the additional 3,000 doses- all these arrived very timely for us to be able to vaccinate the contacts and a good number of health workers who were not in Kasese and other districts during the first phase of vaccination,” she said.

Dr Aceng appreciated the efforts of all partners in Uganda who are working tirelessly to contain the Ebola outbreak.

Also present was the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Rosa Malango who recognized the readily available support by the Government of Uganda in responding to emergencies. “Having spoken to the WHO Uganda country representative, Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, we agreed to convene a meeting with technical staff to identify the gaps and what we need to help with in terms of financial resources,” she said.

The partners that attended the meeting included officials from WHO Uganda Country office and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

As of now, Uganda has no confirmed case of Ebola. Two suspect cases are under isolation in the Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit. One of the suspect cases tested negative for Ebola while the results of the other suspect cases are pending.

The Ministry of Health remains on high alert during this Ebola outbreak in DRC.

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