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Ebola virus disease – Democratic Republic of the Congo: Disease outbreak news, 9 May 2019

The Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak response this past week continues to be hampered by insecurit..

The Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak response this past week continues to be hampered by insecurity. On 3 May in Katwa, a Safe and Dignified Burial (SDB) team was violently attacked following the completion of a burial for a deceased EVD case. In Butembo and surrounding health zones, response activities were repeatedly halted due to a number of serious security incidents taking place from 4-6 May. On 8 May, a group of over 50 armed militia infiltrated the city centre. Security forces repelled the attack following intense gunfire in close proximity to staff accommodations. Although activities resumed on 9 May, after almost five consecutive days of suspension, threats of further attacks against EVD response teams and facilities remain prevalent.

These security incidents, and especially the resultant lack of access to EVD affected communities, remain a major impediment to the response, with teams unable to perform robust surveillance nor deliver much needed treatment and immunisations. The ongoing violent attacks sow fear, perpetuate mistrust, and further compound the multitude of challenges already faced by frontline healthcare workers. Without commitment from all groups to cease these attacks, it is unlikely that this EVD outbreak can remain successfully contained in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

EVD transmission remains most intense in Katwa, Butembo, Mandima, Mabalako, Musienene, Beni and Kalunguta hotspot health zones, which collectively account for the vast majority (93%) of the 303 cases reported in the last 21 days between 17 April – 7 May 2019 (Figure 1 and Table 1). During this period, new cases were reported from 78 health areas within 15 of the 21 health zones affected to date (Figure 2). It is expected that the resumption of response activities will bring a substantial increase in the number of cases reported in the coming weeks due to the backlog from the disruptions.

As of 7 May, a total of 1600 confirmed and probable EVD cases have been reported, of which 1069 died (case fatality of 67%). Of the total cases with recorded sex and age, 57% (907) were female and 30% (475) were children aged less than 18 years. The number of healthcare workers affected has risen to 97 (6% of total cases). 442 EVD patients who received care at Ebola Treatment Centres (ETCs) have been successfully discharged.

Adapted vaccination strategies On 7 May 2019, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) issued new vaccination recommendations in light of the increasing number of EVD cases and continued insecurity in this outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (click here for the full recommendations). The panel made recommendations pertaining to adjusting vaccine dosages, expanding vaccine eligibility, ring vaccination operational improvements, and strengthening training of local healthcare workers to aid in the EVD response.

The rVSV ZEBOV GP vaccine dosage and eligibility criteria have been revised. For high-risk individuals such as contacts and contacts of contacts, the new SAGE recommendations advise the use of 0.5mL of vaccine instead of 1mL. This revised dose has been previously used during the 2015 Ebola ça Suffit! trial in Guinea, and is expected to provide similar efficacy in this current EVD outbreak. Those at lower risks are now to receive 0.2mL instead. SAGE also recommends expanding the accessibility of the vaccine to more individuals in affected health areas. In addition to high-risk individuals, it is now recommended that individuals who are potential contacts due to their residence in the villages or neighbourhoods with incident cases (i.e. where EVD cases have been reported in the last 21 days) be offered the rVSV ZEBOV GP vaccine. SAGE believes that by expanding vaccine eligibility, this would address some of the requests from communities in affected health areas for the vaccine to be more widely available, foster greater trust, and improve willingness of communities to engage with other EVD response activities.

SAGE advised the implementation of an adaptive operational approach to ring vaccinations, implemented in two main methods: pop-up vaccinations and targeted geographic vaccinations. Pop-up vaccination would be conducted by inviting contacts and contacts of contacts to a previously agreed upon temporary location some distance away from the residence of contacts. In areas where accurate identification of contacts and contacts of contacts is not possible due to insecurity, targeted geographic vaccination of whole villages or quartiers would be administered at a fixed location with security present. Both of these vaccination operational methods have been utilised successfully before, and are expected to make the vaccination process more efficient and secure for both healthcare providers and the patients they are caring for.

SAGE additionally recommends offering an alternative vaccine (other than rVSV-ZEBOV-GP) to those at lower risk within affected health areas or neighbouring areas. WHO has reviewed evidence provided by two vaccine manufacturers, and the adenovirus 26 vectored glycoprotein / MVA-BN (Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN) investigational Ebola vaccine is being considered and evaluated by a coalition led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. At this time, this vaccine is in the late stages of formal trials and is expected to be deployed to the field in the near future. These efforts are in line with previous SAGE recommendations regarding the need for more studies to assess the efficacy of additional, alternative Ebola vaccines.

SAGE also supported the proposal to introduce alternative individual informed consent forms and follow up procedures which can potentially simplify and expedite both the vaccination and safety follow up processes. Aside from pregnant women who will be actively followed up until delivery or end of pregnancy, and infants 6-12 months of age who will receive a single visit at day 21, all other case follow up will be completed through passive reporting of adverse events via telephone.

In addition to technical recommendations, WHO and partners are working closely with residents of Ebola-affected communities to empower them to take on greater ownership of the EVD response. Through intensifying training and engagement with local community members, WHO aims to have the majority of vaccination teams comprised of local healthcare providers by the end of the month. Other key elements to transferring ownership of the response to the communities includes fulfilling community requests made in relation to development projects, and ensuring all persons residing in at-risk areas are well-informed about the status of the outbreak, transmission prevention, and availability of care through further mass communication initiatives.

Public health response

For further detailed information about the public health response actions by the MoH, WHO, and partners, please refer to the latest situation reports published by the WHO Regional Office for Africa:

WHO risk assessment

WHO continuously monitors changes to the epidemiological situation and context of the outbreak to ensure that support to the response is adapted to the evolving circumstances. The last assessment concluded that the national and regional risk levels remain very high, while global risk levels remain low. Weekly increases in the number of new cases has been ongoing since late February 2019. A general deterioration of the security situation, and the persistence of pockets of community mistrust exacerbated by political tensions and insecurity, have resulted in recurrent temporary suspension and delays of case investigation and response activities in affected areas, reducing the overall effectiveness of interventions. However, recent community dialogue, outreach initiatives, and restoration of access to certain hotspot areas have resulted in some improvements in community acceptance of response activities and case investigation efforts. The high proportion of community deaths reported among confirmed cases, relatively low proportion of new cases who were known contacts under surveillance, existence of transmission chains linked to nosocomial infection, persistent delays in detection and isolation in ETCs, and challenges in the timely reporting and response to probable cases, are all factors increasing the likelihood of further chains of transmission in affected communities and increasing the risk of geographical spread both within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighbouring countries. The high rates of population movement occurring from outbreak affected areas to other areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and across porous borders to neighbouring countries during periods of heightened insecurity further compounds these risks. Additional risks are posed by the long duration of the current outbreak, fatigue amongst response staff, and ongoing strain on limited resources. Conversely, substantive operational readiness and preparedness activities in a number of neighbouring countries have likely increased capacity to rapidly detect cases and mitigated local spread. However, these efforts must continue to be scaled-up at this time.

WHO advice

WHO advises against any restriction of travel to, and trade with, the Democratic Republic of the Congo based on the currently available information. There is currently no licensed vaccine to protect people from the Ebola virus. Therefore, any requirements for certificates of Ebola vaccination are not a reasonable basis for restricting movement across borders or the issuance of visas for passengers leaving the Democratic Republic of the Congo. WHO continues to closely monitor and, if necessary, verify travel and trade measures in relation to this event. Currently, no country has implemented travel measures that significantly interfere with international traffic to and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Travellers should seek medical advice before travel and should practice good hygiene.

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Burkina Faso: Growing Violence Threatens Health Care

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, t..

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, the number of displaced has increased fivefold, from 50,000 last December, to 270,000 in August. As ever, the most vulnerable suffer most: the very young, and the very old.

When Alidou Sawadogos elderly mother fell ill, he faced a long and dangerous journey to get treatment for her.

“When she collapsed, a friend called me,” he explains. “By the time I arrived she was already unconscious. I decided to take her to the health center and luckily someone who had a motorcycle helped me. Because of the violence many people who are sick wait at home and die. Everyone is afraid of taking the road to the health center in Barsalogho.”

Across Burkina Faso, the rising insecurity has forced over a hundred health centers to close, or to limit their work. Half a million people now have little or no access to health care. Dedicated health workers, among them Dr Bertrand Dibli in Barsalogho, are struggling to meet the needs, and to stay safe themselves.

“This is one of the few health centers that isnt closed,” he says. “We dont have enough equipment. And the insecurity has caused huge anxiety among health workers. Even coming here to Barsalogho is a huge challenge because the route is so dangerous.”

The ICRC has been working to support Burkina Fasos health professionals, with medical kits, and vaccination campaigns. During his visit to the country, ICRC President Peter Maurer expressed his concern at the multiple challenges facing Burkina Fasos people.

“We are very concerned,” he said. “Very worried about the upsurge in violence, its a vicious circle that is trapping the civilian population between armed groups.”

“We also see,” Mr Maurer added, “that it is not only the violence that is affecting the country, it is also under development, and climate change. Together with the violence that is obstructing the health services, its an accumulation of factors.”

And so the ICRC – jointly with the Burkinabé Red Cross – is also delivering food to the displaced, and helping to improve access to water supplies. All of this, says nurse Jeanette Kientega, is desperately needed by a population uprooted by conflict, and denied access to basic health care.

“By the time they are able to get here, it is often too late” she says. “Sometimes we can help, but if they have already been ill a long time, it is difficult. We try to do what we can.” (more…)

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World Bank and WHO Statement on Partnership & Deployment of Financing to WHO for Ebola Response in DRC

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the G..

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Government and other key partners, are working in close partnership on the Ebola Crisis Response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Central to this partnership is the assessment of the financing needs, and deployment of resources, with the goal to put an end to the current deadly outbreak.

The World Bank is today announcing that US$50 million in funding is to be released to WHO for its lifesaving operational work on the frontlines of the outbreak. The WHO is announcing that this US$50 million in funds will close the financing gap for its emergency health response in DRC through to the end of September 2019, and is calling on other partners to mirror this generous support in order to fund the response through to December.

The funding comprises US$30 million from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) and US$20 million from the World Bank. The US$50 million in grant funding is part of the larger financial package of approximately US$300 million that the World Bank announced last month to support the fourth Strategic Response Plan for the DRC Ebola outbreak.

“WHO is very grateful for the World Banks support, which fills a critical gap in our immediate needs for Ebola response efforts in DRC, and will enable the heroic workers on the frontlines of this fight to continue their lifesaving work,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “We keenly await further funding from other partners to sustain the response through to the end of the year.”

The DRC government, working in collaboration with the World Bank, WHO, and other key partners, has finalized the Fourth Strategic Response Plan (SRP4), which outlines the total resources needed for the DRC Ebola Crisis Response from July to December 2019. The financing announced today is part of the World Banks previously announced financial package of up to US$300 million and covers over half of SRP4s needs, with the remainder requiring additional funding from other donors and partners.

“The World Bank is working closely with WHO, the Government of DRC, and all partners to do everything we can to put an end to the latest Ebola outbreak,” said Annette Dixon, Vice President, Human Development at the World Bank. “The partnership between our organizations and the Government is critical for responding to the emergency as well as rebuilding systems for delivery of basic services and to restoring the trust of communities.”

The Government of DRC requested US$30 million from the PEF Cash Window to be paid directly to WHO. The PEF Steering Body approved the request bringing the PEFs total contribution to fighting Ebola in DRC to US$61.4 million. The PEF is a financing mechanism housed at the World Bank; its Steering Body is co-chaired by the World Bank and WHO, and comprises donor country members from Japan, Germany and Australia. The quick and flexible financing it provides saves lives, by enabling governments and international responders to concentrate on fighting Ebola—not fundraising.

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Borno State launches first Malaria Operational Plan, reawakens fight against malaria

Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nige..

Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nigeria, the Malaria Annual Operational Plan (MAOP) was developed and launched on 08 August 2019 with technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners. Aligned to the National Malaria Strategic Plan (2014 -2020), MAOP was developed through a broad-based stakeholders workshop involving malaria stakeholders, reviewed on different thematic areas and endorsed by the Commissioner for Health and Permanent Secretary, Borno State Ministry of Health.

Speaking during the launch, the Borno state Malaria Programme Manager, Mr Mala Waziri described the MAOP as the first to be endorsed and disseminated in Borno State. “WHO has made us proud by supporting the first ever Malaria Operational Plan right from development, review, printing to dissemination.”

Dr Ibrahim Kida, the Ministerial Secretary Borno State Ministry of Health and Incident Manager of the state, described the launch as “an historic event as stakeholders across the health sector made commitments to use the document as an implementation guide for all malaria programs”. The plan was also described as an advocacy tool for planning domestic funds mobilization.

The MAOP has seven objectives among which are: provide at least 50% of targeted population with appropriate preventive measures by 2020; ensure that all persons with suspected malaria who seek care are tested with Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) or microscopy by 2020 and all persons with confirmed malaria seen in private or public health facilities receive prompt treatment with an effective anti-malarial drug by 2020.

The MAOP will further ensure that at least 50% of the population practice appropriate malaria prevention and management by 2020, ensuring timely availability of appropriate anti-malarial medicines and commodities required for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria in Borno State by 2020.

In addition, it seeks to ensure that all health facilities report on key malaria indicators routinely by 2020 and finally strengthen governance and coordination of all stakeholders for effective program implementation towards an A rating by 2020 on a standardized scorecard. These strategic objectives have specific targets and the MAOP takes into account the humanitarian response.

“Malaria remains a leading cause of poor health in Nigeria. According to the 2018 WHO Malaria Report, 53million cases are recorded annually in Nigeria, roughly 1 in 4 persons is infected with malaria contributing 25% of the global burden,” says Dr Nglass Ini Abasi, WHO Malaria Consultant for the North East.

“Furthermore, 81,640 deaths are recorded annually (9 deaths every hour), which accounts for 19% of global malaria deaths (1 in 5 global malaria deaths) and 45% malaria deaths in West Africa. The Nigeria Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP) 2014-2020 has a goal to reduce malaria burden to pre-elimination levels and bring malaria-related mortality to zero and WHO is working assiduously with Government to ensure the burden is reduced accordingly.”

Results from WHO’s Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS) week 30 report from 223 sites, (including 32 IDP camps) show that malaria was the leading cause of morbidity and mortality accounting for 35% of cases and 46% of reported deaths. In addition, results from the Nigeria Humanitarian Response Strategy (NHRS 2019-2021) indicate 7.1million people are in dire need of healthcare and 6.2million are targeted for immediate attention.

Despite recent improvements, insecurity remains a challenge limiting access to the functional health facilities. Easily preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory infection and diarrheal diseases account for the greatest proportion of morbidity and mortality among the vulnerable population. Furthermore, Malaria is endemic in North East Nigeria and the transmission is perennial with a marked seasonal peak from July to November every year. (more…)

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