Ugandan medics now tackling Ebola say they lack supplies

  • People coming from Congo wash their hands with chlorinated water to prevent the spread of infection, at the Mpondwe border crossing with Congo, in western Uganda Friday, June 14, 2019. In Uganda, health workers had long prepared in case the Ebola virus got past the screening conducted at border posts with Congo and earlier this week it did, when a family exposed to Ebola while visiting Congo returned home on an unguarded footpath. (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi) Ronald Kabuubi

  • In this photo taken Thursday, June 13, 2019, Pedson Buthalha, the administrator of the hospital where the first cross-border Ebola victim was isolated, speaks to The Associated Press in the town of Bwera, near the border with Congo, in western Uganda. Medical workers leading Uganda's effort against the Ebola outbreak are already alleging limited support from the government in the days since the country's first cases of the deadly virus were confirmed. (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi) Ronald Kabuubi

  • People coming from Congo have their temperature measured to screen for symptoms of Ebola.

  • Women coming from Congo wash their hands with chlorinated water to prevent the spread of infection, at the Mpondwe border crossing with Congo, in western Uganda on Friday. AP photos

Associated Press
Published: 6/15/2019 12:56:16 PM

The isolation ward for Ebola patients is a tent erected in the garden of the local hospital. Gloves are given out sparingly to health workers. And when the second person in this Uganda border town died after the virus outbreak spread from neighboring Congo, the hospital for several hours couldn’t find a vehicle to take away the body.

“We don’t really have an isolation ward,” the Bwera Hospital’s administrator, Pedson Buthalha, told The Associated Press. “It’s just a tent. To be honest, we can’t accommodate more than five people.”

Medical workers leading Uganda’s effort against Ebola lament what they call limited support in the days since infected members of a Congolese-Ugandan family showed up, one vomiting blood. Three have since died.

While Ugandan authorities praise the health workers as “heroes” and say they are prepared to contain the virus, some workers disagree, wondering where the millions of dollars spent on preparing for Ebola have gone if a hospital on the front line lacks basic supplies.

“Even the gloves are not enough,” the hospital administrator said Thursday. A nurse nodded in agreement.

The World Health Organization on Friday said the Ebola outbreak is an “extraordinary event” of deep concern but does not yet merit being declared a global emergency. Such a declaration typically triggers more funding, resources and political attention. WHO said $54 million is needed to stop the outbreak.

And yet both Congo and Uganda appeared to lobby against a declaration, with Congo counting the Uganda-related Ebola cases as its own, saying Congo was where the family members began developing symptoms. Ugandan authorities on Friday said they had only one suspected Ebola case remaining in the country.

More than 1,400 people have died since this outbreak was declared in August in eastern Congo, one of the world’s most turbulent regions, where rebel attacks and community resistance have hurt Ebola response work. The virus can spread quickly via close contact with bodily fluids of those infected and can be fatal in up to 90% of cases, and identifying people who might have been exposed is crucial.




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