The death of the Rwenzururu Queen Mother has posed a different dimension on the Ebola outbreak at the Uganda/Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) boarder. The reason is simple.
Three quarters of the Rwenzururu, who pay allegiance to the Kasese kingdom of Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema Ngoma, the king, are citizens of the DRC. For the funeral and other traditional rites of burial, the Rwenzururu will likely have come in their thousands to the ceremony, which took place last week. Alongside this will obviously arrive some people who might be infected with the virus.
Despite Uganda’s internationally acclaimed preparedness of the strike of Ebola in its territory, the numbers coming to mourn their royal would be overwhelming for the case of testing and vaccinating them.
The two deaths so far reported in Uganda are of an itinerant family of both Ugandans and Congolese; and despite their having been repatriated back to the DRC, the specter of the Ebola hanging over Uganda is still real.
The BBC’s Deputy African Editor, Anne Soi, reporting from Kasese, noted that the movement of people coming from the DRC into Uganda, especially to do commerce, has not abated. With its global responsibility, Uganda has not closed its boarder. This is where the World Health Organization (WHO) should have come in.
In the last two years, having noted the pestilence in DRC, and because of other various factors of insecurity, WHO has not widened the concern of the rest of the world to this emergency. At its emergency meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, over this, they concluded that the incipient spread of the virus did not pose a global threat.
What do these people, relaxing in the far away and cool atmosphere of the Swiss Alps, mean? This is despite the advice of the WHO/Uganda country representative, saying that there was a substantial international emergency that the DRC Ebola attack means to the region. Are they saying that Uganda and the other neighbouring nations of Rwanda, Angola, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, do not form part of the global family of nations?
WHO’s myopic assessment is an irresponsible miscalculation. They want to wait until the situation gets to the level that id did in the West African case of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, when a similar epidemic killed more than eleven thousand people.
In fact, given that the viral attacks of Ebola, Zika and Marbug fever, is prevalent in this central African region, it simply makes more sense that, until such time as development comes to the region to get near to that of the West, WHO headquarters should actually be moved to this part of Africa. When the Mad Cow disease attacked England and the chicken epidemic hit China, a few years ago, these were merely localized occurrences, concerning single countries with very little chance of spreading. Besides, it involved developed countries that had the capacity to deal with the epidemics without outside help.
The fact that WHO has not declared Ebola as a global threat, when it is ravaging the eastern part of DRC, is part of the reason that has led to the virus getting into Uganda. Another reason is the businesses and non-governmental organizations that would come to the rescue of WHO, have not seen the offer of billions of dollars coming in, unlike the West African case. So far, only a paltry less than half of the pledged 98 million dollars has been delivered. That does not provide a financial killing for these business concerns to reap from.
That says a lot about fighting the global threat of pestilences. It is now basically left to only Uganda to try to contain the spread of Ebola into its territory. Even if it was well prepared, its efforts are bound to be constrained by the need for funds ant one point of another. There is a need for millions of vaccine vials to be delivered to the country and DRC, the financial implications of which are daunting for the two states.
WHO did not take and could not have taken into account the death of the Rwenzururu Queen Mother. Nevertheless, it should have taken into account the porousness of the DRC/Uganda borders. Indeed, it should take into account the other boarders surrounding the DRC whose boarders are equally porous. That would indicate the global threat of the Ebola virus.