IOM border health management continues as Ebola outbreak declared over Congo

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After 42 days without recording a new case of Ebola, Congolese health authorities over the weekend officially declared an end to the latest outbreak of the disease, which killed four people out of eight infected in Congo’s remote north-eastern forests.

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Although this latest outbreak – the eighth for the country since Ebola was discovered in 1976 – is now officially over, the IOM Mission in the DRC intends to continue its on-going activities to train and equip border health officials and carry out surveillance and mapping activities along key migration corridors.

“It is essential to continue this work to build the capacity of our Congolese health partners to comprehensively address the migration dimension of any future epidemic threats, including most recently the Ebola and Yellow fever outbreaks,” said IOM’s Public Health specialist Aki Yoshino.

To date, IOM’s Migration and Health programme in the DR Congo has carried out a range of Japanese-funded activities in partnership with the Programme National d’Hygiène aux Frontières (PNHF) and key international health partners such as the WHO.

Those include the deployment of PNHF Ebola response teams in the Bas Uele province, where the first cases of Ebola were identified and along four main Point of Entries on the border with the neighbouring Central African Republic. Additional Congolese border health officials were also deployed in Kisangani, Congo’s third largest city and at Kinshasa international airport.

Prior to their deployment, all border health officials were trained and equipped with mobile data collection tools. As part of this on-going programme, teams of enumerators working in twelve data collection sites were also trained as part of mapping exercises that were then validated by local health authorities and partners.

“Mapping of main migration routes and corridors is key to containing epidemic outbreaks,” said IOM’s Aki Yoshino. “The maps which have so far been produced will allow a prompt and targeted response at borders should Ebola reoccur in Congo’s Bas Uele Province.”

The surveys carried out have identified priority entry sites along the borders with the Central African Republic and eastern provinces that border with Uganda.

It also identified artisanal mining sites that attract large numbers of migrant workers from various parts of the country and the region and from countries further afield, such as China and India. It also revealed that motorbikes and bicycles are the most common means of transportation, suggesting the need to raise awareness among populations on ways to contain future outbreaks.

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