Ebola Crisis Takes a Turn: Increased US Intervention Necessary

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Historically, the 2018 – 2019 Ebola outbreak is the biggest the Democratic Republic of the Congo has ever seen. As a whole, it is also the second largest documented epidemic of the disease on record. The epicenter of the eruption is located in the Kivu region, which has also been in the midst of a conflict between the Congolese military and rebel groups, which has prevented necessary assistance from making its way into the country. Due to the decline of the situation over the past year, culminating with a confirmed case of Ebola in the capital city of Goma, the World Health Organization officially announced it as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in July 2019.

The spread of the virus to bordering countries is a matter of great importance in the global health community. This includes the nations of Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda. Given that Goma is a major transportation hub connecting these territories together, it is imperative that the transmission of Ebola be stopped quickly in the Kivu region.

Recently, the World Health Organization has claimed the current funding is not enough to sustain response activities on a multi-national scale. The United States, who played a large role in the 2014 – 2015 outbreak of Ebola, has had limited participation this time around. This is largely due to the ability of the global health community to respond more adequately to the disease through large improvements in technical capabilities. Security factors with the military conflict have also prevented the United States from getting on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, due to recent changes in the situation, the Congolese government and the World Health Organization cannot efficiently resolve the epidemic without additional help from UN partners, most notably the United States.

‘We won’t get to zero cases of Ebola without a big scale-up in funding,’ UN relief chief warns

The United States must change its current policies on intervening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Ebola outbreak. Most important is contributing additional funding to sustain the World Health Organization’s role in halting the spread of the virus within the current borders, while also supporting the surrounding nations’ prevention efforts. USAID is a critical source of backing in this ongoing battle, and without them it is likely to falter. I would also reconsider the hesitancy of placing United States government personnel on the frontlines, because as the problem gets more dire the harder it will be to act from within the country. The CDC is another key player in this game, and I would advise the US take advantage of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Condo’s (also known as MONUSCO) peacekeeping forces to get public health workers back on the frontline with guaranteed protection from rebel militias.

3 Responses to “Ebola Crisis Takes a Turn: Increased US Intervention Necessary”

  1. dlagrappephn Says:

    Hi Allan – overall great blog. I like the addition of maps, epi data and a video which support the text. There are a few grammatical errors. I would also remove I, because you have not introduced who you are and why the public should be swayed based on your position, experience. If you were to add in who you are and why you think people should listen to your perspective, I think this could make the argument more convincing.

  2. Ebola Crisis Takes a Turn: Increased US Intervention Necessary | Tropical Health Matters Says:

    […] part of the course on Social and Behavioral Foundations in Primary Health Care, Allan Ciciriello posted in the class blog. We have shared his thoughts […]

  3. nefltas Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of the current eastern DRC Ebola outbreak, and for your recommendations on how to bolster the international response.

    Your research reflects the complexities of the eastern DRC context; having worked in the DRC for a number of years and supported both Ebola preparedness and response efforts for the current outbreak, I might just add that the conflicts are not solely between the Congolese military and rebel groups, but also intercommunal, and even, in some cases, monetized military campaigns financed by provincial and national politicians in order to impose and sustain their political influence in the region.

    In response to your comment, “The United States, who played a large role in the 2014 – 2015 outbreak of Ebola, has had limited participation this time around,” I would clarify that while the US response has perhaps been limited when compared to the West Africa outbreak, the US has still been the largest single-country donor to the current DRC Ebola outbreak, with $136 million in contributions from USAID alone (https://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/jul-24-2019-united-states-announces-more-38-million-additional-assistance). Regarding your later comment that the US must change its current policies to “also support[] the surrounding nations’ prevention efforts,” substantial preparedness investments have also been made in ring countries such as Burundu, South Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda. This is not to say that the United States Government could not do more, of course, but USAID and other foreign assistance funding for humanitarian assistance are currently being restricted by Trump Administration sanctions on the DRC due to its enforcement of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (https://www.devex.com/news/exclusive-haphazard-white-house-crackdown-on-human-trafficking-disrupts-aid-94866). In other words, there are significant policy barriers to the ability of US Government foreign assistance to fully implement its development and foreign assistance mandates in the DRC. If I could humbly offer my own recommendation as a private US citizen for a more specific policy recommendation than what you have offered, it would be to desperately lobby for a waiver from these sanctions—at least until the current outbreak has ended and “wraparound” development assistance has been deployed to affected areas. (In fact, such a waiver request was sent to the US Secretary of State this week). And, as mentioned yesterday in a CNN OpEd by USAID Administrator Mark Green, “greater transparency” is also needed “from everyone involved in the response with respect to both data sharing and expenditures of funds” (https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/22/opinions/ebola-outbreak-drc-green/index.html).

    Finally, your recommendation that the US take advantage of MONUSCO peacekeeping forces to get public health workers back on the frontline is an important point. While MONUSCO has a trusted, established presence, however, the presence of MONUSCO has not “guaranteed” frontline health worker protection, unfortunately. On the contrary, sadly–and despite good intentions–MONUSCO escorts have sometimes escalated local tensions by creating the perception of a militarized outbreak response that has only further deepened community distrust. Local police have therefore often been found to be a more locally acceptable solution than MONUSCO forces for the protection of frontline health workers, but even this has been at risk to their own lives.

    Again, thank you for your post. You’ve chosen to tackle an extremely complex issue in need of rigorous policy, organizational, and community diagnoses!

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