WFP struggles in fight against ebola outbreak in DR Congo

An ebola treatment centre run by the WFP. Photo credit: Marco Frattini

GOMA - As the Democratic Republic of Congo grapples with the second largest ever Ebola outbreak, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the resources needed to support its work are not keeping pace with the recent increase in transmission and the potential risk of the virus spreading within DRC and to neighbouring countries. 

 WFP has helped contain Ebola by providing food to people potentially carrying the virus, and by providing crucial logistical services, including flights, which enable responders to reach new or remote outbreak areas quickly.

 The Emergency Committee convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General recently expressed deep concern about the recent increase in transmission in specific areas, and the potential risk of spread to neighbouring countries.

 The last few weeks have also seen a drastic deterioration of security in Ebola hotspots, further complicating the response and threatening the lives of patients as well as medical workers. Last week an epidemiologist deployed by the WHO, Dr Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung, was killed in an attack on Butembo University Hospital. Two other people were injured in the attack.

 “The Ebola epidemic is a crisis occurring within the broader humanitarian crisis of DR Congo where WFP provides lifesaving assistance to more than 5 million people. To manage these two operations simultaneously we urgently require additional resources,” said WFP Country Director Claude Jibidar.

 For its Ebola operations WFP requires US$20.5 million for the next three months and has received just over US$6 million so far. As part of the government-led response WFP has supported 264,000 persons with food and nutrition assistance since August 2018. Food is currently delivered at 89 distribution points across Ituri and North Kivu provinces. 

 “Weekly food parcels delivered by WFP and its partners mean that carriers of the virus don’t need to leave their homes to buy food. People receiving food are found to be more willing to cooperate in registration, vaccination and treatment,” Jibidar said.

 While the focus is on preventing the virus moving to other parts of DRC, WFP has stepped up its support to neighbouring countries -Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Tanzania - so they are also prepared if there is spread.

 WFP’s Ebola operation to date has been generously funded by Canada, The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, (ECHO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).