Uganda Declared Ebola Outbreak Free, With a Call to Remain Vigilant
January 13, 2023
Uganda has been declared Ebola-free, with a call to the public to remain vigilant to avoid new infections, deal with the socio-economic impacts of the outbreak, end stigma, and rehabilitate and re-integrate survivors.
During the declaration of the end of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak made on Wednesday January 11th, 2023, in Mubende district where the first EVD case was confirmed 114 days ago, the country was also commended for its strong health systems, an effective national response strategy, strong leadership and proactiveness in sharing information which suppressed transmission of the virus to nearby countries and limited its spread to only nine districts in the country.
The declaration followed conclusion of two incubation cycles of 42 days since the discharge of the last confirmed case on 30 November 2022, “Having registered no new Ebola case, despite sustained intense surveillance both at the epicentre districts and nationally, I now confirm that all transmission chains have been fully interrupted and take this opportunity to declare that the outbreak is over, and Uganda is now free of active Ebola transmission,” Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health, said.
The minister urged the public to remain vigilant and “implement the standard operating procedures and report any person in the community that presents with Ebola-like symptoms (e.g. -, sudden onset of fever, headache, body weakness, joint pains, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea or urine, bleeding from body openings) to the nearest health facility or call the Ministry of Health toll-free numbers.”
Ebola spread and effects
Since the declaration of the outbreak of EVD in Uganda on 20 September, 2022, a total of 142 confirmed cases, 22 probable cases, 55 deaths and 87 recoveries have been registered.
The declaration is a result of hard work and difficult decisions that had to be taken including quarantine of contacts for 21 days, a 42-day lockdown, an all-night curfew and limitations on movement in and out of Mubende and Kassanda districts to limit the spread of the virus to other districts.
The population also adopted safe and dignified burial with very few attendants which runs counter to several cultural and religious practices regarding funerals.
Not yet accounted for, this crisis will have serious socio-economic impact including disruption of the tourism sector and internal business flow of the affected districts. In the coming weeks, UNDP will commit to assess the magnitude of the socio-economic impacts of this crisis, especially at the level of the two districts constituting the epicenter – Mubende and Kassanda.
There have been 25 Ebola outbreaks in Africa since 1976, eight of them in Uganda. Uganda has proved a successful track record at tackling these outbreaks and learned that strengthening public health resilience is key. UNDP will also commit to understand and compile such lessons learned and further build capacities in risk preparedness and prevention.
Focus on addressing other public health threats
With the declaration of the end of the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, focus should now turn to addressing other public health threats such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and non-communicable diseases.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator Ms. Susan Ngongi Namondo commended Uganda’s progress towards vaccines development and called for greater health systems strengthening to deal with future public health emergencies. “We should be preparing for the next outbreak even as we pray and work so hard so that it doesn’t happen,” she said.
UNDP support to Uganda’s National Ebola Response
Following the declaration of the EVD outbreak in Uganda, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) repurposed core resources and secured additional funding from the UNDP Crisis Bureau to contribute US$1,300,000 (about UGX 4.85bn) to the national response to curb transmission of the virus, minimize mortality and disruption of socio-economic and health systems, improve standard of care for affected persons and safeguard development gains.
UNDP’s support was directed at: (a) Risk Communication and Community Engagement; (b) Strengthening EVD Response Coordination at National and Sub-national Levels; (c) Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) with a focus on EVD Waste Management; (d) Human Resource Support; and (e) Socio-economic Impact Assessment and Early Recovery.
With Ebola behind us, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng listed priority plans and urged development partners to focus on them. These include research, infection prevention and control, capacity building within the East African Community, comprehensive support to EVD survivor programme and re-integration. Others are establishing a multi-disciplinary clinical response team, supporting implementation of recovery plan to ensure coordination, strengthening laboratory capacity and having mobile field vans to minimize disruption of programmes.
More than ever, this crisis confirms that there can be no development where there is no robust health system. UNDP will, therefore, deepen its ongoing collaboration and cooperation with both the Ministry Health, the World Health Organization and other development partners to strengthen resilience and response to public health emergencies.