The Second Worst Ebola Outbreak in History Declared PHEIC: Here’s What we Know

The declaration of the DRC Ebola Outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) followed the fourth meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for EVD in the DRC where it was concluded that a coordinated international response under the International Health Regulations (2005) is required.

Would declaring PHEIC in DRC address the local realities surrounding this outbreak and end the outbreak? What is PHEIC? Who should be concerned? What does this mean for DRC, neighbouring countries and Africa as a whole?

The second worst Ebola outbreak in history has been declared PHEIC a year into the outbreak. Here’s what we know:

Fast Facts about the PHEIC Declaration in DRC 

What does the WHO hope to achieve by declaring DRC Ebola Outbreak PHEIC?

The declaration of the PHEIC is not a reflection on the performance of the response team but rather a measure that recognizes the possible increased national and regional risks and the need for intensified and coordinated action to manage them.

Why now, what has changed since the last emergency committee meeting?

The Committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The reinfection and ongoing transmission in Beni which has been previously associated with seeding of the virus into multiple other locations.

Further, the murder of two HCWs demonstrates the continued risk for responders owing to the security situation.

In addition, despite previous recommendations for increased resources, the global community has not contributed sustainable and adequate technical assistance, human or financial resources for outbreak response.

What are the implications of the declaration?

While the PHEIC was declared to put the ongoing Ebola outbreak to rest, the global community should anticipate possible negative consequences such as the punitive economic consequences of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities. The Committee issued some recommendations to proactively prevent them from occurring.

Who should be concerned?

The Global community; PHEIC means massive deployment of Global Health Resources to the axis involved in this outbreak. Already, In response to the declaration, the AfricaCDC is re-activating the  Africa Health Volunteers Corps AVoHC & deploying them not just to DRC but also to other countries within the region.

AVoHC is a group of volunteers that was deployed effectively in West Africa to respond to the Ebola outbreak that occurred in 2014 to 2015, they will also be very useful in the current outbreak

AVoHC is a team of 800 epidemiologists, anthropologists, as well as communication, laboratory & logistics experts, from different AU countries who are on standby for emergency deployment. Many of them have been trained & are ready to be deployed anywhere within the continent

What should we expect to change?

The global community’s response to the outbreak;

The AfricaCDC has already announced plans to strengthen response including the procurement & provision of additional equipment and supplies, strengthening cross-border surveillance and laboratory systems, and a new approach to risk communication and awareness-raising at the community level. We expect the same from the UN agencies, NGOs and other partners. 

– How will the PHEIC affect the insecurity situation currently hindering outbreak response?

Following the declaration, the African Union has expressed its intentions to engage with the UN security system to improve security for deployed experts & facilities so that response efforts can continue without interruptions

How will this affect the ongoing response and the DRC in general?

It is crucial that the PHEIC not be used to stigmatize or penalize the very people for whom it was declared to help. States are implored not to 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

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