New Zealand to help fund fight against measles in the Pacific region

Source: Government of New Zealand
Country: Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, World

Pacific Regional Action Plan for Measles offers immediate preventative action. It allows for the flexibility to respond to additional requests from Pacific nations and offers an efficient way of working regionally.
RT HON WINSTON PETERS

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced New Zealand will contribute NZ$1 million of funding towards the joint United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Pacific Regional Action Plan for Measles.

“Prevention through vaccination is the most effective way of avoiding illness and a costly health emergency. New Zealand has collaborated with UNICEF and WHO to identify regional vulnerabilities and opportunities for early interventions to prevent further outbreaks,” Minister Peters said.

“This plan offers immediate preventative action. It allows for the flexibility to respond to additional requests from other Pacific nations and offers an efficient way of working regionally.”

Activities under the plan include targeted vaccination for children up to the age of 5 years of age, supplementary vaccine doses for new mothers and their families to protect babies too young to be vaccinated and increased measles surveillance, public health and epidemiology support to those countries most at risk.

New Zealand’s support to the regional action plan is complementary to funding 200,000 vaccines for Fiji’s current mass vaccination campaign, provision of medical supplies and emergency funding to support the mobilisation of health workers to undertake vaccinations in Tonga and the extensive package of financial, material and personnel support in response to Samoa’s measles outbreak.

Mr Peters is currently in Samoa with Minister of Pacific Peoples, Hon Aupito William Sio.

ENDS


‘Air bridge’ vaccination operation begins for Ebola-hit communities in DR Congo

Source: World Health Organization
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

To ensure continued care, WHO has mounted a limited daily helicopter “air bridge” operation to the remote communities at risk that insecurity due to ongoing violence by armed groups.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has seen an increase in the number of reported cases of the deadly haemorrhagic virus Ebola linked to ongoing violence by armed groups targeting remote communities, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

According to the UN agency’s latest outbreak update, 27 new cases were identified last week in the east of the country – three times the average number of infections in the past 21 days.

“The last three weeks were below 10 cases and this is only in four (DRC health) zones, and this is where we need to ensure access to finish the job,” Dr Michel Yao, Incident Manager, with the WHO Ebola Response team in the DRC, told journalists in Geneva. “Unfortunately it is in this area where we are facing the insecurity. This area is a mainly rural area, so for the big cities the outbreak is more or less controlled.”

Although the development is worrying, current infection rates are well down on the 120 cases a week reported during the peak of the outbreak, in late April.

In a further more promising development, WHO reported that in Beni and Mabalako Health Zones, the percentage of contacts under surveillance in the last seven days has returned to levels seen prior to “security events” that have hampered the Ebola response teams in past weeks – a reference to reported violent public demonstrations.

Outbreak in four health zones only

And in a further sign of progress in the fight against the outbreak – DRC’s tenth in 40 years – is the fact that it is now restricted to four health zones, as opposed to the 29 originally identified in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.

Nonetheless, attacks on healthworkers and Ebola clinics – including deadly violence against Ebola responders in Biakato (Ituri province) in late November – have meant that the vital work of tracing people who have come into contact with Ebola patients and vaccinating them has been severely restricted.

“In these (health) zones, there’s one (area) in particular called Lwemba that we haven’t been able to access for three weeks,” Dr Yao explained. “And when you don’t have access, you can’t vaccinate the contacts and others at risk. You can’t find confirm new cases of infection so you can’t do safe burials, you can’t get infected people out and get them medical care.”

One person near Beni ‘infected 17 others’

Most of the new cases identified in the last week were linked to one individual near Beni town who could have infected 17 people.

“The person who passed away is in a place that’s called Aloya. It’s close to Beni, but this person unfortunately died,” Dr Yao said.

According to WHO, this same person recovered from Ebola six months ago.

It is now investigating whether they were reinfected by someone else – which has never been documented - or suffered a relapse, which has happened before.

Since the outbreak began in North Kivu and Ituri last August, 2,210 people have died from the disease.

It is the second largest Ebola emergency to date, after the West Africa crisis from 2016-2016 that saw more than 28,600 cases of infection.

‘Air bridge’ team has started vaccinations

To ensure continued care, WHO has mounted a limited daily helicopter “air bridge” operation to the communities still at risk.

The health team on board conducted their first vaccinations on Thursday, Dr Yao said.

“The helicopter that we’re using has space for around 20 people so it means we can transport epidemiologists to do their investigations, but above all the vaccination team,” Dr Yao explained, noting that the communities had come to the Ebola responders seeking help. They “want the intervention”, he insisted, “but around we have armed groups that prevent us from reaching these communities”.

He added: “We’re mobilising communities all around to come and get vaccinated in a situation where there are (health) alerts but we can’t go to investigate because access is restricted.”

With up to 100 armed groups believed to operate in the vast forested region of eastern DRC bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, attacks on Ebola-hit communities have sparked a humanitarian crisis and threatened aid distribution, amid serious civil unrest.

“Since the start of this epidemic, there’s been one factor that we haven’t been able to control: the intervention context,” Dr Yao said, adding that “when these communities are attacked, there are demonstrations everywhere, which in fact stops Ebola intervention work”.


South Sudan: US$1.5 billion needed to address the humanitarian needs of 5.6 million people in 2020

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: South Sudan, Sudan

Some 7.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection and 3.7 million are displaced inside or outside of the country.
Response Plan Overview

The cumulative effects of years of prolonged conflict, chronic vulnerabilities and weak essential services have left 7.5 million people – more than two thirds of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance. Nearly 4 million people remain displaced:

1.5 million internally and 2.2 million as refugees in neighbouring countries. Limited availability and a lack of access to health services have largely contributed to one of the highest under-five mortality rates (90.7 deaths per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality rates (789 deaths per 100,000 live births) worldwide. The country remains in a critical period of unprecedented severe food insecurity with 6.4 million people considered food insecure, and with malnutrition rates of 16 per cent – surpassing the global emergency threshold.
Protection concerns remain significant, with affected populations expressing fear over persistent insecurity, protection threats, human rights violations and gender-based violence (GBV).
In 2020, the humanitarian operation will focus on three overarching strategic objectives (SOs) aimed at responding to the needs of 5.6 million vulnerable populations as a result of the crisis: (1) Reduce morbidity and mortality, as well as suffering from protection threats and incidents; (2) Facilitate safe, equitable and dignified access to critical cross-sectoral basic services; and (3) Enable vulnerable people to recover from crisis, seek solutions to displacement and build resilience to acute shocks and chronic stresses through targeted programming in specific geographic locations.
To fully meet these objectives, the humanitarian community will need US$1.54 billion in 2020. This Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is based on an enhanced, intersectoral analysis of needs across population groups. A rigorous prioritization approach has been applied in identifying the geographical areas and activities included in the scope of the plan. As per the previous 2019 HRP, the Humanitarian Country Team has agreed to focus on activities that can be scaled up, depending on the availability of funds.
The response approach strengthens multisectoral planning and delivery, mainstreams protection activities across the strategic objectives and focuses on strengthening accountability to affected people (AAP). A robust intersectoral mechanism has been put in place to ensure that targeted populations and beneficiaries feel informed and consulted throughout the entire humanitarian programme cycle. Through a targeted community communication and engagement plan, it aims to protect vulnerable communities in high risk areas from sexual exploitation and abuse. A focused approach to incorporating age, gender and diversity considerations will be applied in all aspects of partners’ response. This includes prioritizing vulnerable population groups such as female-headed households, providing safe spaces for children and taking into account the needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities during the response. Cash and voucher assistance (CVA) will be used by a number of sectors as a modality of response aimed at improving livelihoods of local communities and businesses and strengthening local markets.
In 2020, partners are enhancing their efforts in intersectoral collaboration and impact monitoring. The intersectoral severity analysis provided for the identification of prioritized geographic locations displaying the highest severity of need. Regular situation and response monitoring will provide the Humanitarian Country Team with timely evidence for operational decision-making.
Through consolidated humanitarian hubs, humanitarians will provide secure access to hard-to-reach locations and enable consistent delivery of quality integrated basic services to underserved and vulnerable populations. Subnational inter-agency coordination will enable operational decentralization of response activities and facilitate the involvement of affected populations.
In support of the humanitarian-development nexus, partners will aim to ensure that humanitarian activities are aligned and contribute to the shared objectives and collective outcomes of development programming through the United Nations Cooperation Framework (UNCF) (2019–2021).


GeoPoll survey results on Ebola in DRC available

GeoPoll has been active in the DRC for many years and runs multiple surveys, including collecting data related to the on-going Ebola crisis.  GeoPoll has just completed an SMS survey in North Kivu, surveying community members on a range of issues.  Some of the questions they have gathered feedback from community members on include:

  • Do you know what the symptoms of Ebola are?
  • What is your primary source of news/information on Ebola? (Friends/Family, TV, radio, newspaper, social media)
  • Which social media channel is your primary source of information?
  • How do you communicate with friends about Ebola?
  • Have aid or healthcare organizations been more present in your area than usual in the past two weeks?

GeoPoll has now completed the survey and shared the results, free, online at https://www.geopoll.com/blog/ebola-in-drc-sms-survey-results/