Friday , August 12 2022

United States governments increase presence near the epicenter of Ebola in Congo


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States had a slight presence in the ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But now it's changing.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, says to NPR that he will assign about a dozen health professionals to work in the DRC for a year and position at least some of them much closer to the epicenter than before.

The last time US personnel traveled near the outbreak zone was last August, when a team of three CDC experts and one USAID staff arrived in Beni a few weeks after the current epidemic was declared. A few days later, one of the rebel groups active in that part of the Congo attacked a nearby military base.

The US State Department – which has the authority to ensure the safety of all employees in the US government – was immediately ordered by the team. From that moment on, the State Department has limited CDB experts to Ebolu to the capital of the Congo, Kinshasa – on the west side of the country, nearly 2,000 miles from the outbreak zone on the eastern side. The CDC has also deployed teams to assist officials at the World Health Organization's headquarters in Geneva.

This approach is contrary to the much stronger role of WHO and private aid organizations. Hundreds of health workers have been sent to the epidemic zone – complementing thousands of those working on the ground in the Congolese government. These health workers stayed on course despite repeated cases of violence, including not only conflicts between insurgents and government forces, but also direct attacks on those who responded to the ebola.

Last month, however, a Door-Free Doctoral group suspended work in the epicenter after armed men attacked two Ebola-treated centers administered by the group.

Redfield, who was open last week to identify facts in the epidemic zone, told NPR that there is a limitation on what CDC experts can do when they are physically removed from the epicenter.

For example, the key role of the CDC is to provide highly technical training to Congolese healthcare professionals who directly manage the response. Redfield says those health workers must be people coming from the epidemic zone, not from the capital.

"Each of these communities is different. Each of these communities speaks more than one language," said Redfield. "And we are trying to gain the trust of the community. So if I enter and speak English or even one of the DRC languages [capital] area, I'm an outsider. We understand that it is for training people who give us the best opportunity to gain the trust of the community that we had to launch these training activities in the region. "

This task was facilitated by a recent decision by the Congolese government to consolidate the coordination of Ebola response in a new center in Goma. Although it is still about 200 miles from the city of Butemba, which is currently raging an epidemic, Goma is at least the capital city of the province where Butembo is located.

Redfield said he had already received approval from the State Department to send three CDC trainers Gomi. He hopes to join them seven more soon.

Equally important, he said, he extended the visits of these CDC experts from 30 days a year. So far, about 1000 people have been infected with outbreaks. "Do not think you're going to get to the finish here," Redfield said. "This is a marathon, it will take many months before we can celebrate the end."

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