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World Health Organization cautiously optimistic as Ebola out-
break in Democratic Republic of the Congo largely contained

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed Wednesday “cautious optimism” as the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been “largely contained” with no new cases of the disease confirmed since the last known sufferer died on June 9.

In a latest situation report on the DRC Ebola outbreak, the WHO said the situation in Bikoro and Wangata health zones in Mbandaka city, the million-population urban area where Ebola cases were confirmed, has remained calm since mid-May 2018 when the last confirmed Ebola cases were reported.

The WHO and local health authorities have identified all potential transmission chains and all new suspected cases. The contact tracing system is working effectively, while community engagement in remote places has deepened.

Despite the progress, the WHO said there should be no room for laxity and complacency until the outbreak is controlled.

Since the beginning of the outbreak on April 4, a total of 62 Ebola cases and 28 deaths had been reported as of June 17. Of the 62 cases, 38 have been laboratory confirmed, 14 are probable and 10 suspected. Of the 52 confirmed and probable cases, 28 have died, giving a case fatality rate of 54 percent. As of June 17, a total of 289 contacts were under follow up, of which 276 or 96 percent were reached on the reporting date.

The WHO still considers the public health risk to be very high at the national level.

The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban center located on a major national and international river with road and air transport axes, increases the risk of both local propagation and further spread within the DRC and to neighboring countries. The risk at the regional level is therefore considered high, while the risk at global level is currently considered low.

Earlier in May, the WHO decided that the Ebola outbreak in the DRC had not met conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, but maintained that if the outbreak expands significantly, or if there is international spread, the situation and the risk assessment will be re-evaluated.



Ninety percent of Ebola cases vaccinated in
Democratic Republic of the Congo: minister

KINSHASA Democratic Republic of the Congo (Xinhua) -- At least 90 percent of reported cases of Ebola have been vaccinated since the operation began in Equateur Province in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Minister of Health Oly Ilunga said Saturday here.

Ilunga told a press conference that vaccination and free healthcare and sensitization of the population in the health zones of Bikoro territory affected by the epidemic have had a positive impact in the response to Ebola virus disease in Equateur Province.

“These measures and many others have helped to have fewer reported cases. Vaccination has changed the attitude of the population and avoided stigmatization, both in Bikoro, Itipo and Iboko,” said the minister.

Since the declaration of the epidemic in May, at least 38 cases have been confirmed in the laboratory in the health zone of Bikoro, with a total number of deaths that is 27 with 13 confirmed by the Ebola virus.

The DRC is at its ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976. The last outbreak took place in May 2017 in the province of Bas-Uele.


New test drugs to be used to treat Ebola in
Democratic Republic of the Congo: WHO

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has approved the use of five investigational therapeutics to treat Ebola virus disease (EVD), marking the first time such treatments have been available in the midst of an Ebola outbreak in the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.

Four of the five approved drugs are currently in the country, which are Zmapp, GS-5734, REGN monoclonal antibody combination, and mAb114, under the framework of compassionate use and expanded access, the WHO said.

Clinicians working in the treatment centers will make decisions on which drug to use as deemed helpful for their patients, and appropriate for the setting. The treatments can be used as long as informed consent is obtained from patients and protocols are followed, with close monitoring and reporting of any adverse events.

Earlier in May, WHO convened a group of independent scientific experts to evaluate investigational therapeutics for EVD during the current outbreak in the DRC. They found that there are many pathogens for which no proven effective intervention exists.

For some pathogens there may be interventions that have shown promising safety and efficacy in the laboratory and in relevant animal models, but that have not yet been evaluated for safety and efficacy in humans.

Under normal circumstances, such interventions undergo testing in clinical trials that are capable of generating reliable evidence about safety and efficacy. However, in the context of an outbreak characterized by high mortality, it can be ethically appropriate to offer individual patients investigational interventions on an emergency basis outside clinical trials, WHO said.

According to WHO statistics, as of Wednesday, a total of 58 EVD cases have been reported, including 27 deaths, 37 lab-confirmed, 14 probable and seven suspected cases. Information about the extent of the outbreak remains limited and investigations are ongoing.

Currently, WHO considers the public health risk to be very high at the national level, and also sets the risk at the regional level at high level. Globally, the risk is currently considered low, but WHO said as further information becomes available, the risk assessment will be reviewed.

Meanwhile, the DRC, the WHO and partners have also developed a comprehensive strategic response plan for points of entry to avoid the spread of the disease to other provinces or at the international level.

The plan includes mapping strategic points of entry and the locations of areas where travelers congregate and interact with the local population, and therefore are at risk of Ebola virus disease transmission based on population movement.

The plan involves implementing health measures at the identified points of entry or traveler congregation points, such as risk communication and community engagement, temperature checks, provision of hand hygiene and sanitation materials, and the development of alert, investigation and referral procedures.

The WHO, however, has noted that the Ebola outbreak does not currently meet the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern, and that there should be no international travel or trade restrictions.


United States imposes sanctions on 14 entities connected with Israeli billionaire

WASHINGTON United States (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Treasury announced on Friday that it has imposed sanctions on 14 entities for their connections with an already designated Israeli billionaire, accusing them of human rights abuse and corruption.

The punished 14 companies were affiliated with Dan Gertler, an Israeli businessman whom the Treasury claimed had amassed his fortune through “opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).”

“Treasury is sanctioning companies that have enabled Dan Gertler to access the international financial system and profit from corruption and misconduct,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker said in a statement.

The sanctions would freeze assets of blacklisted entities under U.S. jurisdiction and ban any U.S. individuals or companies from making business deals with them.

Gertler himself was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury last December.

The Treasury also said on Friday that the entities were punished under the Global Magnitsky Act, under which 73 individuals and entities have had their assets blocked so far.


Democratic Republic of the Congo polls to be
held on Dec. 23, foreign minister assures Angola

LUANDA Angola (Xinhua) -- A special envoy from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Monday briefed Angolan President Joao Lourenco on the DRC’s upcoming elections.

The DRC is committed to holding general elections on Dec. 23, DRC Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu told the press after meeting with Lourenco, who is also president of the Southern African Development Community’s political cooperation, defense and security body.

Filing nominations for the legislative and presidential elections will kick off on July 24, the minister added.

Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel Augusto said it is in Angola’s interests that the elections in the neighboring country take place without any constraints.

Initially marked for Dec. 31, 2017, the DRC elections were rescheduled for Dec. 23, 2018 after the opposition demanded the departure of Joseph Kabila, whose presidential mandate expired in 2016.

Constitutionally, Kabila is barred from running for another presidential term.

The former president has said he would comply with the electoral calendar.

According to media reports, dozens were killed in recent demonstrations in capital Kinshasa to stop Kabila from running for a third term.


Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo
mark boundary lines on shared frontier

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Thursday physically marked their boundary on the shared frontier adjacent to western Rwanda’s Rubavu district and eastern DRC’s Goma town.

The demarcation took place at the Rubavu-Goma common border on an occasion to mark the eighth Africa Border Day.

Rwandan defence minister James Kabarebe and DRC’s deputy prime minister Herny Mova Sakanyi signed an agreement of the demarcation report after the demarcation.

Kabarebe said he is confident that the two sides will expedite the demarcation and materialization of the remaining section of the land needed to be demarcated and Lake Kivu before 2022, the deadline set by the African Union for all member states to demarcate and materialize their boundaries.

During the occasion, the two countries also inaugurated a one-stop border post at the Rubavu-Goma common border and 22 physical boundary pillars.

Numerous cross-border initiatives to improve border efficiency in clearances are in place to cut down unnecessary costs and duplication of operational services, Kabarebe said.

Currently, 7,000 people cross the border each day through the border post commonly called Grande Barriere on the Rubavu-Goma border and 45,000 people cross another Rubavu-Goma border post commonly called Petite Barriere.

Africa Border Day is marked in line with the African Union Border Program, aimed at addressing the persistence of lack of delimitation and demarcation of African boundaries that gives rise to undefined zones and developing cross-border initiatives.



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