Headway Is Being Made But We cant slow down in race to end deadly Ebola outbreak in DR Congo,
Is Connor Lennon from UN news. There are positive signs that the government's lead effort to end the deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has turned the corner but there's no room for complacency. That's according to the. UN's emergency Ebola Response Coordinator David Gresley who was at U N headquarters on Wednesday used to take part in a ministerial level meeting to assess the more than year long efforts to end the second worst outbreak Evan he spoke to UN uses Matt Wells well. I think we're we're kind of at a more promising place than we certainly were a few months ago. When we saw a number of attacks against Ebola responders particularly in the city of Timbo uh things have advanced I think the main difference now is that not only as a greater security for responders input Timbo outside with Tim O. Vinnie. There are a lot of areas that were inaccessible in the past where where a lot of groundwork has been done to try to gain community acceptance for the response which has had a very positive impact getting into areas where the viruses circulated on a regular basis has allowed an effective response to to follow and we're seeing the cases decline and in some cases dramatically from very high levels down to practically zero so I'm increasingly optimistic with what we see in the Beanie Timbo area. We just need to see this extended to other areas where we're seeing the virus continued to circulate now a lot of different parts of the UN are are involved in this effort from health officials nice to to blue helmets from the mission is the response is joined up and as coordinated as it needs to be from your perspective. Well coordination is always a work in progress so I think it's it's coming along like I would like it to There's always more that you can work together on that. We continue to find ways to collaborate share information but I think there's a good good good spirit and I think the most important thing is that we've been able to drive that coordination down to to the lowest level where whereas most effective it's really the people on the ground that make the difference so whether it's. who or it's UNICEF effort the World Food Programme UNDP UNFPA all involved on this I o M is involved evolved on this We're seeing really good collaboration we WANNA bring our NGO partners on board all of course supporting the government of DRC who continues is to leave this response and and we're seeing I particularly I would cite the city of coordination there where I really think that has come together very nicely and it's also where we're seeing the lowest level of transmission despite the fact that this is where the epidemic generally began Health Organization chief Doc tendrils said on Wednesday the risk of spreading across the border of DRC was still high. What are you doing to try and help. This effort to limit at the risk of the way to do that of course is to eliminate the virus itself this is a very very urban area. people are surprised to hear the Timbale. Oh has more than a million people at these are large cities and it's important to understand that it's also very mobile population which allows movement between Benny Kimball but also to Ugandan border to Goma quite quite easily one or two day trip very routine and that that becomes the problem so what needs to be done is two or three three things is good preparedness around the border areas good preparedness in provinces adjacent in case the virus gets into that area. wore importantly is really just dry up the source of the virus in that central area. That's been feeding into the Ugandan border feeding into Goma and then the threat will go down. Considerably on vaccination has been some criticism. UN responses being too cautious to selective and their needs now to be a much wider wide a program initiated. What what's your view on the right way on that now. Well obviously vaccinations are very useful to think is also important to note. That vaccination by itself is probably not sufficient to end the epidemic. It can put a brake on on the spread slow it down but I in itself is probably not gonNA stop the epidemic but also also saves lives that's extremely important so that the best use of the vaccine is a constantly evolving question how best utilize that which populations are at greatest risk and I think as as Dr Tendrils says we learn as we go along as we adapt as we see the situation as new tools become available like therapeutics extremely extremely important tool to add to the arsenal against Ebola a bit by bit. We're making a bullet into a more normalized disease. and I think ultimately ultimately what we would like to see is that the bullet treatment centers themselves be seen as a place where you go to get cured of Bulla not die every bullet which is often the perception that totally turns and transforms the psychological aspect of bill as a disease. I mean Katie there have been some serious obstacles to be able to reach suspected suitcases and bill to clamp down on this outbreak most obviously the the ongoing violence at the hands of armed groups and the Phibro political situation in that region engine house the effort going there and in terms of countering that and also how successful the effort to try and win hearts and minds of people to get the trust of local people especially in rural communities where they are quite understand very very distrustful pretty much anybody in authority on the political side of the election of president. She's Katie with a long ways to offsetting the the politicization of Boll back at the end of last year when people have been put timber were not allowed to vote for the presidency and there's a I take a new opportunity and and you see it even talking with local militia groups of an interest in finding a reconciliation with the government in a way to move forward. It's very early early in that process but it's a different attitude at this point in time that makes it a little bit easier to work with so I think all the political side some very positive things now on the on the security side. It's a little bit different different. That's a mix you have on the one hand the Allied Defense Forces a Ugandan led group. That's based in the DRC has used extreme means of of attack only military police targets civilian as well terrorist acts basically and killing tens and sometimes hundreds of people full That's a very serious threat that disrupted the response late last year that has been less of a problem since MANISCO together with the Congolese army led a an offensive against the group in late last year November which pushed them back far enough to longer and have a direct impact but they remain in ongoing danger to the response and military action will still be required to keep keep them at bay the more domestic militia groups groups locally known as my my are different kind of threat they they are very much embedded in the communities. They're not in opposition to the communities and they are very suspicious and distrustful of national security forces which is where a problem comes often in the communities. There's a big distrust over over the Bulla response itself so it's a difficult combination but not an impossible and and engagement of the right people who have influence over leaders of these groups can make a difference to try to open up access quite frankly where Ebola has circulated for a period of weeks six people have died from Bulla that to demystify and takes the myth away because people see real and then then it's another opportunity for engagements very tragic way for that to happen but what we're seeing particularly benefit timbo areas that many of the areas that were inaccessible where there was transmission one by one or opening up with acceptance and that's the key is acceptance. It's not overcoming insecurity with acceptance you get security with acceptance you get the ability to treat people people with acceptance you get to bring this to an end most recently in in the city of Benny there was one area health area that had the highest rate of transmission of any healthier in the country twice that of the second highest that was only a matter of weeks ago at the beginning of August by middle middle of August with a lot of work on the ground with governments and an NGO and UN support that area opened up to full acceptance now. There's hardly any case of Ebola there in one by one. We're seeing these health areas come around for that. and that's leading to what we're seeing on. The dramatic decline in cases is between Benny and Timbo the very area that fed all these other localities in Uganda Goma on the Rwandan border and South Cube so we need to they do now the same province which is now has the largest number of cases in the country to gain the confidence and acceptance of populations there that's incomplete and that I work at least intensifies we can protect those communities but also prevents the spread east and West from tour. I mean that's a real threat as we speak today today. So what more support what will help does the government and the UN led response needed a stage from the international community. I think first of all it's important to note the the the technical leadership of government for the EVOLA response is extremely well qualified. They know he bulla as well as anybody. In the world led by Professor William Bay so they have the technical expertise what's required is the kind of support that I've described of course financial support ongoing support and coordination locally. I think is important. The neutrality and impartiality the peacekeeping force brings national security forces often cannot bring in that kind of environment. These are all different aspects that that are important. I what I think we need to see as well as a continued improvement and preparedness sadness both in the country and outside we really don't want this to spread any further and if the the important thing is to detect early if you detect early rapid response as possible and you close it down very very quickly so we need to make sure that happens and the and the other thing is really required. Is there still areas that are inaccessible where there's no known transmission but we're not sure because we're not there isn't endemic diseases yeah well. It's not there's no evidence that it's in these areas but we should be there to make sure it has not come in and circulating quietly secondly it would be good to get into these areas in the event that infection does come into that area better to be there ahead of time working with communities supporting them in other ways so that when the infection does come where a far better position to deal with quickly quickly rather than allowing to come up as another hot spot possible the international emergency state status that the disease has now the outbreak has it at this point that that could be lifted some time in the in the near future as soon as it's a radically aided and it's clear that it's it's a radical that of course that will be lifted at the appropriate time I think we have several well several weeks at a minimum to go. We need to get probably well into the end of the year. There's a forty two day period at at the end of the last case before. It's finally declared so we're we're weeks and weeks away from that one thing. That's not require right now is complacency. Success is good but it's incomplete and it's always at risk and we can see an explosion of cases if we if we stop the the kind of support that's going on. We need to be everywhere all the the time with everything going so we just need that kind of support internationally to keep going until we finish the job one last thing. I would think that's important is that we need to start thinking about the postie bullet period. It's not too early to do that. We need to start thinking what we're going to do to support number one survivors because they will continue to have health problems after this is over secondly. There's the possibility that they still carry residual amounts of the virus. You can have a new cases uses. come up later on so the surveillance system needs to be there to make sure that that's detective quickly probably more importantly is the recovery of the of the systems on the ground whether it's health education have been affected by this and then a broader support to the public health system. The bulla outbreak of nature of this outbreak is a function of poor governance and poor public health systems. If those causes are not dealt with effectively then this the whole thing could happen once again so we have to the root cause of why this became such a large epidemic.