Pandemic preparedness in the midst of an emergency response
Over the last three months, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been escalating, resulting in the World Health Organization declaring the EVD outbreak in DRC as a Level 3 emergency.
The epicentre of the outbreak is located around Beni in the country’s North-Kivu region, an area that experiences continuous cross-border movements of communities. As a consequence, neighboring countries, namely Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan are exposed to the risk of transmission and need to be prepared to tackle an epidemic at national, as well as regional level.
In South Sudan, which is also battling a Level 3 emergency, ensuing conflict and displacement, the risk of an epidemic is particularly concerning.
"It only takes one case crossing the border of South Sudan for the situation to get out of control.
Adding a pandemic on top of a L3 emergency would be a disastrous scenario for the country and the humanitarian activities here - this is why we have to be ready. National and international organisations from different areas and regions need to pull together and be prepared," stressed Fiona Lithgow, Cluster Coordinator of the Logistics Cluster in South Sudan.
Acting as the focal point for WFP South Sudan in Ebola Preparedness, the Logistics Cluster is taking an active part in the National Task Force led by the Ministry of Health, supporting health partners in mapping border screening centres (temperature measurement and observations of symptoms) as well as the capacities of the organisations present in Western and Central Equatoria, the locations identified as first priority. The cluster also scaled up the coordination of transport of Ebola-related material, assisted in the construction of slabs for ten isolations centres and is now working with WFP South Sudan and its sub-offices to coordinate the Advanced Preparedness Actions.
Regional preparedness activities have also been supported by the cluster, who recently deployed one staff member to Uganda. A joint mission is currently being conducted along Lake Albert between DRC and Uganda with UNICEF, the Red Cross and the Ugandan Ministry of Health to set up tents for screening centres and evaluate the needs for shelter at the point of entries in Kayanza, Haibala and Ntoroko.
It is therefore necessary to keep the level of alert high and to maintain well-functioning internal and external coordination mechanisms to ensure that adequate measures are taken to prevent the pandemic from extending further.
More information on the South Sudan operation can be found here.