Sunday , September 26 2021

Uganda to Vaccinate Health Workers Amid Fears of DRC Border Transmission

Photo: Daily Monitor

A medical officer came to a suspected Ebola patient. Dr. Mathew Lukwiya (inset) died of ebola when the disease first occurred in 2000.

Uganda plans to start vaccinating some of its health workers against Ebola on Wednesday, making it the first country in the world to provide vaccines without experiencing an active outbreak.

Uganda vaccinated at least 3,000 health workers in five districts bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Ebola outbreak has killed at least 180 people.

The vaccination program in this area is driven by concerns about diseases that spread across the border between the two countries, the fragility of the border is of great concern, according to Grace Kiwanuka, executive director of the Uganda Healthcare Federation.

"We have seen a lot of exposure for health workers along the Congo border," Kiwanuka told RFI. "There is a need to do some kind of intervention to protect these workers. Uganda has a very porous border with DR Congo, so we have many refugees and other people who cross from places where there is violence."

East DRC violence hampers anti-Ebola struggle

In most DR Congo, the government has implemented several important steps to help combat the spread of Ebola. For example, in places in and out of large cities where there are cases of Ebola, people are screened for disease and must wash their hands to contain viruses.

Given the violence in the eastern DRC, there is a question about how well equipped Kinshasa is to deal with the spread of Ebola there.

"The situation is not improving in this region," Emmanuel Dupuy, an African specialist and head of the Paris-based IPSE think-tank, told RFI. "A number of rebel groups are still active there, as President Joseph Kabila said when speaking to the United Nations recently, when he questioned the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping missions that have been in the eastern DRC for almost 20 years."

"There are areas that are very difficult to access and in dealing with Ebola. You need to be able to isolate patients, as well as tracking contacts, to follow all the contacts of different people, and safe and dignified funerals," Tricia added. Norwood, an official Unlimited doctor based in Bunia in eastern DRC, near the Ugandan border.

"To be able to do that, you must get the trust of the community and you need to share good information with the community and it is very difficult when you do not have access to certain communities," Norwood told RFI. "I know that the DRC health ministry works very hard to gain access to certain communities, but [the security situation] definitely complicates all responses. "

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