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On July 24, 2018, the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) officially declared an end to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that had raged on in the northwestern part of the country since the first case was reported in May 2018. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 54 cases of Ebola virus were recorded during the outbreak, resulting to 33 deaths. This latest outbreak of Ebola in DRC and its subsequent containment has once again placed in the spotlight the urgency of the need to build resilient health care systems in low and middle-income countries to deal with the incidence of infectious diseases. According to the World Bank, a resilient health care system is one that can absorb the shock of an emergency like Ebola and continue to provide regular health care services, leaving other sectors of the country robust.

Similar to the recent Ebola virus outbreak in the DRC, that started in the country’s rural areas but reached to urban Mbandaka in May of 2014, West Africa experienced the largest and most complex record of the disease since it was first discovered in 1976. The disease started in Guinea and quickly spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia with a large concentration in urban areas; resulting in a total of 28,616 cases and a significant 11,310 deaths. According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), unlike the recent situation in the DRC, the disease became epidemic in the three West African countries in large part because the health care system in these countries was still struggling to deal with routine care, let alone a deadly outbreak of infectious disease.

Whereas, in the case of DRC where the availability of trial vaccines and a better prepared international response mechanism were in place to combat the disease and prevent the spread of the virus, in West Africa, this was not the case. For example, when the outbreak started, the limited public health services available were fully diverted to Ebola, leaving other healthcare necessities uncovered. Hence, as the world take steps to address global healthcare through the framework of the SDG 3 “Good Health and Well-being,” there is a need to focus on strengthening the health care system in low and middle-income countries. A good place to start would be to achieve the six pillars of the WHO framework (leadership/governance, financing, medical products, vaccines and technology, information, health workforce, service delivery) in the healthcare sector. It is only when these safeguards are put in place, not just to deal with the incidence of an outbreak but to also address the most common health conditions in low and middle-income countries that these countries can be able to contain deadly diseases adequately and inspire trust amongst their citizens in their respective healthcare systems.

For Further Reading:

Ebola outbreak 2018: What’s different this time?

How DRC’s Ebola Outbreak Has Been Contained

Beyond Ebola: a new agenda for resilient health care systems

Ebola outbreak in Congo declared over, but the risk can remain

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 40 years of Ebola outbreak around the World

WHO Regional Strategic EVD Readiness Preparedness Plan

 

 


Thanks for sharing !


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