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WHO Declares End Of 11th Ebola Outbreak In DR Congo

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The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have announced the end of the 11th Ebola outbreak in the D.R.C., nearly six months after another outbreak of the virus was reported in Equateur province.

The Kivu Ebola epidemic began early August 2018, and wound down in June 2019.  It was finally declared over in late June this year.  But another outbreak and current 11th Ebola outbreak surfaced in Equateur province with 119 confirmed cases and 55 deaths. The two outbreaks within two years were geographically far apart.  Genetic sequencing analysis found that they were unrelated.

The outbreak took place in communities scattered across dense rain forests as well as crowded urban areas. More than twenty-two hundred persons died of Ebola in both outbreaks.

W.H.O. Has congratulated responders and all those who tirelessly tracked cases, provided treatment, engaged communities and vaccinated more than 40,000 high risk persons.  It also thanked a wide range of partners for their support.

Vaccinators used an innovative cold chain storage to keep the Ebola vaccine at temperatures as low as -80 degrees celsius. The arktek freezers can keep vaccines at very low temperatures in the field for up to a week and enabled responders to vaccinate people in communities without electricity.

“overcoming one of the world’s most dangerous pathogens in remote and hard to access communities demonstrates what is possible when science and solidarity come together,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, who regional director for Africa. “the technology used to keep the Ebola vaccine at super-cold temperatures will be helpful when bringing a covid-19 vaccine to Africa. Tackling Ebola in parallel with covid-19 hasn’t been easy, but much of the expertise we’ve built in one disease is transferrable to another and underlines the importance of investing in emergency preparedness and building local capacity.”

Equateur province was also the site of the country’s 9th Ebola outbreak, which was overcome in a little over three months in 2018 and had half as many cases reported. However, the response to the 11th Ebola outbreak had to contend with the covid-19 pandemic, which strained resources and created difficulties around the movement of experts and supplies. There were also challenges around the large number of cases in remote communities which were often only accessible by boat or helicopter and at times community resistance hampered response efforts.

Under the leadership of the DRC government, most responders were mobilized locally, and they moved quickly, despite important logistical and access difficulties. Vaccination efforts began just four days after the outbreak was declared. Around 90% of the vaccinators were from local communities. The response also tapped into the expertise of local health workers trained during the two recent outbreaks in the DRC. Responders worked closely with community members to increase understanding of the virus by visiting more than 574 000 households and providing more than 3 million people with pertinent health and safety information.

At the height of the outbreak there were more than 100 who experts on the ground, supporting the government’s response. While the 11th outbreak is over, there is a need for continued vigilance and maintaining strong surveillance as potential flare-ups are possible in the months to come. In this regard, who and other partners are currently conducting important actions for improving critical operational capacities in Equateur province, including training frontline workers.

The end of this outbreak serves as a reminder that governments and partners must continue to focus attention on other emergencies, even as the fight against covid-19 persists. There is a need for greater investment in strengthening the core capacities of countries in the implementation of the international health regulations. Enhancing preparedness will lead to improved response to threats arising from epidemic prone diseases and result in less social and economic impact.

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Okonjo-Iweala Named Forbes Africa Person Of The Year

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Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has on Tuesday been named Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2020.

Forbes Africa disclosed this in a tweet saying Okonjo-Iweala who is a candidate for the office of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), has been named “The 2020 African person of the Year.”

Reacting to the news, Okonjo-Iweala said she is “thrilled to be named Forbes Africa-CNBC ‘2020 African of the Year’ following in the footsteps of my great brothers Paul Kagame and Akin Adesina.”

She added “This award is for Africans suffering the health and economic impact of COVID-19. The energy and resilience of Africans inspires me”.

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Mauritania Uncovers Illegal Migration Networks

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Mauritanian authorities say they have uncovered more than 30 illegal migration networks and repatriated around 4,000 persons to various west African countries.

Interior minister, Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug, told local media there had been an increase in the number of persons trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands – an alternative route to the Mediterranean Sea where some migrants have been deterred by stricter controls and instability in Libya.

The United Nations has called for greater efforts to disrupt people-smuggling rings, after more than 140 persons died off the coast of Senegal in October in the deadliest shipwreck of the year.

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Amnesty Urges UN To Maintain South Sudan Arms Embargo

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Amnesty International is urging the United Nations Security Council to maintain its arms embargo on South Sudan amid what the human rights group calls “extreme violence by government forces, and an increase in attacks on civilians, including war crimes.”

The UN security council is due to conduct a mid-term review of its arms embargo and other measures on South Sudan before mid-December.

The council first established an arms embargo on South Sudan in 2018.  It was renewed last year and subsequently extended by a year in may this year.

Amnesty says it had documented “a series of extrajudicial executions, forced displacement, torture, and destruction of civilian property by government and former opposition forces.”

The group cited a four-fold increase in violence in the states of Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap and Western Equatoria between April and June compared to the same period last year.

Amnesty says as South Sudan was calling for the embargo to be reviewed earlier this year, “government soldiers were shooting civilians, burning homes, raping women and girls, and displacing tens of thousands of people from their villages in the south of the country.”

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