WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).


“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” said Dr. Tedros. “Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders — coming from not just WHO but also government, partners and communities — to shoulder more of the burden.”


The declaration followed a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for EVD in the DRC. The Committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.


The Committee expressed disappointment about delays in funding which have constrained the response. They also reinforced the need to protect livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak by keeping transport routes and borders open. It is essential to avoid the punitive economic consequences of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities.


“It is important that the world follows these recommendations. It is also crucial that states do not use the PHEIC as an excuse to impose trade or travel restrictions, which would have a negative impact on the response and on the lives and livelihoods of people in the region,” said Professor Robert Steffen, chair of the Emergency Committee.


Since it was declared almost a year ago the outbreak has been classified as a level 3 emergency – the most serious – by WHO, triggering the highest level of mobilization from WHO. The UN has also recognized the seriousness of the emergency by activating the Humanitarian System-wide Scale-Up to support the Ebola response.


The WHO believes that the risk of spread internationally remains high, leading it to declare the Ebola outbreak a global emergency.


The latest figures show that in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the Ebola disease outbreak is of greatest concern, there have now been 2,418 confirmed cases of Ebola and 1,676 deaths, 1,582 are confirmed deaths and the rest considered probable.


The spread of the disease outbreak across borders is a requirement for the trigger to be activated for the at-risk tranche of the World Bank’s IBRD CAR 111-112 catastrophe bond, that backs the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF).


The so-called Insurance Window of the PEF, which consists of $105 million of pandemic risk linked swaps and the $320 million of pandemic catastrophe bonds, which provide the necessary reinsurance capital to back the facility, has so far not been triggered by the Congo Ebola disease outbreak as it has remained contained within a single country.


There also needs to be a certain rolling number of cases being confirmed at the time of the triggering (a growth factor), while the disease also needs to have spread internationally and at the same time a growth factor in terms of the rate of new cases being reported in the new country as well. All these factors must be met in order for the trigger to be activated and any loss of principal to come due.