Congolese and WHO officials wear protective suits as they prepare equipment before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near Beni in North Kivu province, DRC, Aug. 8, 2018.
FILE - Congolese and WHO officials wear protective suits as they prepare equipment before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near Beni in North Kivu province, DRC, Aug. 8, 2018.

GENEVA - The World Health Organization is urgently appealing for $40 million to salvage its operation to bring the Ebola epidemic to an end in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The Ebola operation in eastern DR Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces is on financial life-support.  The World Health Organization reports its coffers will be empty at the end of this month.  It is urging donors to step up immediately and contribute the money needed to tackle this virulent disease.  

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says failure to support this operation would be tragic as good progress is being made in containing the Ebola virus.  Over the past two months, he says between three and 15 cases of Ebola have been reported each week.   This is compared to 120 reported cases of Ebola in April 2019.

“Last week there was only one case reported and we are down to only two health zones in eastern DRC where we have Ebola cases.  But again, if we do not receive this funding, we risk obviously to have more spread of the virus.  So, therefore, there is this appeal to get more funding," he said. 

WHO reports 3433 cases of Ebola, including 2253 deaths, for an overall case fatality rate of 66 percent.  Jasarevic says money from the $40 million appeal also will be used for preparedness activities in neighboring countries.  

FILE - A person dressed in Ebola protective apparel is seen inside an Ebola care facility at the Bwera general hospital near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bwera, Uganda, June 14, 2019.

He notes a modest WHO investment of $18 million in helping Uganda set up screening, monitoring and other systems succeeded in stopping Ebola from taking root in that country last year.

He tells VOA it is crucial that the Ebola operation not be interrupted because as long as there is one case of the disease, there will be a risk of further spread.

“So, we have to really get down to zero.  We are making progress, but again, whether you have one case, or you have more cases, the activities that you have to put in place are the same.  So, we need to make sure that activities are funded,” said Jasarevic. 

There have been eight confirmed cases of Ebola reported from Beni and Mabalako in North Kivu Province in the past 21 days.  But WHO reports there have been no new cases reported for more than 42 days from Butembo and Mambasa Health Zones.  

WHO calls the reduction of geographic spread of the Ebola virus and the declining number of cases encouraging.