This Weekly Bulletin focuses on public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African Region. The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 108 events in the region. This week’s main articles cover key new and ongoing events, including:
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the WHO African Region
- Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Measles in Democratic Republic the Congo
For each of these events, a brief description, followed by public health measures implemented and an interpretation of the situation is provided.
A table is provided at the end of the bulletin with information on all new and ongoing public health events currently being monitored in the region, as well as recent events that have largely been controlled and thus closed.
Major issues and challenges include:
The COVID-19 outbreak continues to expand rapidly in the WHO African Region, with 96% (45/47) of countries being affected. Only Comoros and Lesotho are still apparently free of the disease. The cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is now 14 068 and the number of deaths is steadily growing, standing at 658, an increase of 43% over the previous week. The disease is now spreading from the capital cities to the inter-land, with most countries in the region experiencing local transmission, and a few progressing to community transmission. Most countries are implementing lockdown measures of various types, with varying degree of societal impact. To prevent this outbreak from further intensifying in the region, it is critical that all governments step up implementing strong public health response: physical distancing, handwashing, finding cases, providing care and isolation, contact tracing and isolation. Additionally, countries need to ensure provision of and continuous access to basic necessities during the lockdowns.
There are now three new confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo, two of whom have died. Contacts are being traced and the specimens are being genetically sequenced to aid in identifying the source of infection. The resurgence of cases comes in the face of continuing insecurity and community concerns, both of which hamper the required ongoing response in this area of North Kivu. This emphasises the need for stronger coordination and communication among partners, the Ministry of Health and with civil society and local authorities.
The measles outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo appears to be starting to decline, with a decreasing trend in both cases and deaths since week 13. However, the outbreak is still active in western and southern provinces and interruptions in the measles response as a result of COVID-19 activities are a concern, so there is no room for complacency. COVID-19 response activities should be harnessed to enhance and not detract from measles outbreak response. This is being attempted through coordination of both response groups.