KENYA AT HIGH RISK

WHO reports crucial shortage of Ebola funds

Has been supporting surveillance along the border with Uganda and Tanzania; says there is a 40 per cent funding gap

In Summary

• WHO says preparedness activities in countries surrounding the DR Congo have slowed down

• Official says organisation is battling to contain the outbreak in DR Congo and prevent its spread

Health workers in the DR Congo
FUNDING GAP: Health workers in the DR Congo

The World Health Organization is running out of money to stop Ebola spreading across East Africa and other regions. 

The shortfall may affect Kenya, where WHO has been supporting surveillance along the border with Uganda and Tanzania.

WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said the lack of money has now reached a crucial juncture. 

 

"We have received relatively little funding for continuing the Ebola preparedness in the surrounding countries and actually have about 40 per cent funding gap in relation to the amount that WHO had estimated is necessary," she said in a conference call on Friday. 

The organisation is battling to contain a serious outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and stop the virus spreading to neighbouring countries. About 1,200 people have died from Ebola in DRC. 

Moeti said preparedness activities in countries surrounding DR Congo have slowed down due to lack of money.

WHO’s funding needs for the response are $98 million (Sh9.8 trillion), of which $44 million (Sh4.4 trillion) has been received, leaving a gap of $54 million (Sh5.4 trillion). 

Despite the shortfall in WHO funds, Kenya has gone ahead to establish Ebola Rapid Response Teams comprising medical specialists in disease control and laboratory scientists who are trained in investigation and testing for Ebola virus.

"The ministry has a total workforce of 229 staff deployed at various ports of entry and in addition, 21 Ebola champions have been deployed to support the team," Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said recently.

Kenya remains at high risk and last week, a suspected Ebola case in Kericho turned negative.

 

The lack of funds means the Ebola vaccine, which is 90 per cent effective, may remain out of reach for Kenyans because it is only being doled out to people close to the outbreak.

Separately, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said if the funds are not received, WHO will be unable to sustain the response at the current scale.

He spoke last week after visiting Uganda, where the disease has killed three people.

“After seeing the rapid response in Uganda, I can only urge the international community to continue to support the preparedness activities ongoing there and in neighbouring countries,” Adhanom said, “We have seen concretely how this investment saves lives by controlling the spread of a dangerous pathogen."

WHO said there were 500 survivors of the disease in DR Congo.

"This is a testimony that you can recover from this disease. They also gain immunity and can't be reinfected, so they can work in treatment centres and can help feed patients," Zabulon Yoti said. Yoti is a regional adviser for outbreaks and disaster management at WHO. 

Edited by R.Wamochie