While no cases of the deadly Ebola virus have been reported in Uganda yet, the country’s health ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have begun vaccinating frontline health workers in the country against Ebola, in a bid to prevent an outbreak in the neighbouring Democratic of Congo (DRC) from crossing the border.
Five high-risk areas that border the DRC are the focus of the exercise. They include Bundibugyo, Kabarole, Kasese, Ntoroko and Bunyangabu where 2 100 doses of vaccine have been administered to health workers, protecting them against the particular strain of Ebola currently circulating in some parts of DRC.
This precautionary step is to avoid the fatal consequences of previous outbreaks, which saw health workers contract the disease and die as they cared for patients.
WHO said in a statement released on Wednesday that it is “highly likely” that Ugandans in districts near the border will be infected with the virus, due to their close proximity to the epicentre of the outbreak and high population movements due to trade, social and cultural connections and the relatively easy access to health services.
WHO warned at the end of October that there was the possibility of the virus spreading into Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi, as well as Uganda, and called on these countries to step up preparations.
Exacerbating the efforts to keep Ebola under control in the DRC is the deteriorating security situation. Across the country, local populations and humanitarian workers assisting them have come under attacks by armed groups, necessitating the deployment of a large UN peacekeeping mission.