An international team of health and legal experts has called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to reconvene the Emergency Committee to consider declaring the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
Writing in the Lancet, the authors say that while the WHO, the DRC government and non-governmental organisation partners have shown remarkable leadership in the outbreak, they “are badly stretched.”
Last October, an emergency committee was convened by the WHO to discuss the outbreak. Although the committee called for intensified action, fearing significant deterioration, it decided not to declare a PHEIC at that time. The authors say that the fears of the Committee have been prescient, with the volume of cases tripling and a number of governments withdrawing personnel amid safety concerns.
They say they are particularly concerned about the high risk of Ebola spreading to DRC’s neighbouring countries, especially South Sudan.
The authors argue that the legal criteria for PHEIC have been met and say that declaring a PHEIC would be a 'clarion call' to galvanise high-level support. “A PHEIC would provide a clear signal from the world's global health body that United Nations leadership is urgent,” they added.