IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is supporting the deployment of teams of epidemiologists and medical staff from the Ministry of Health and the National Programme of Hygiene at Borders (PNHF) in Kinshasa to 16 points of entry along the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) borders.
This deployment is part of an effort to prevent and control the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC, supporting the World Health Organization (WHO).
The DRC Ministry of Health, which is leading the response, announced an outbreak in the Equateur Province on 8 May. In recent days, Ebola cases have been confirmed in larger urban areas, making the risk of the disease spreading further even greater, due to heavier density of population and higher population mobility.
The essential deployment of these border health officials was made possible through USD 75,000 reallocation of funds from the Government of Japan and a release of internal emergency funds totalling USD 100,000. Border health officials will set up infection prevention and control measures at priority border crossings, travel routes and congregation points. A referral mechanism is being developed and will be used to help sick travellers. IOM and partners will also communicate about health risks at border crossings to ensure travellers take precautions against the disease.
IOM also plans to monitor flows at major border crossing points and key congregation points to quantify cross-border and internal movements, and obtain the demographic and movement profiles of travellers. In addition, IOM will assist the facilitation of cross-border coordination and information sharing with neighbouring countries to ensure surveillance and operational readiness for early detection, investigation and response to potential cases of Ebola.
IOM hopes to carry out population mobility mapping of the Bikoro Health Zone, neighbouring Health Zones and the whole Equateur Province to help the humanitarian community know which locations are the busiest points that people travel through and should have health measures strengthened, including risk communication, health screenings and setting up of infection prevention and control measures, among others.
“Helping combat the spread of Ebola over international borders will only be possible with further funding from donors,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, IOM DRC Chief of Mission. “Although Equateur is not affected by the country’s ongoing conflict, our teams and resources in DRC are stretched: responding to humanitarian needs as a result of both the conflict and the Ebola outbreak, while our work in the DRC remains one of IOM’s most underfunded operations. This is not the first time the DRC has experienced an Ebola outbreak. The country has proven experience in containing it and the humanitarian community has learned from previous responses. So, with enhanced support, we have a real chance to stop Ebola in its tracks in DRC,” added Chauzy.
IOM is appealing to donors for USD 1,000,000 to carry out population mobility mapping and cross-border coordination and support surveillance, health screening, risk communications and infection prevention and control activities at key border areas.
IOM is an active global health security partner in DRC, working closely with the Ministry of Health and WHO to set an international health regulation strategy in place and help implement it at the national and local levels.
Currently in Burundi and DRC, IOM is working on reinforcement of cross border coordination through development of joint contingency plans, while building community capacity to ensure they are ready to handle health emergencies.