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Minister Explains Closure of Ebola Screening Points

The Minister was responding to concerns about the closure of several screening points at Uganda DR Congo border, amidst an on-going Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The disease has so far claimed close to 2240 lives, according to the World Health Organisation.

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Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng says manning border screening points was becoming very expensive in the wake of security threats. 

The Minister was responding to concerns about the closure of several screening points at Uganda DR Congo border, amidst an on-going Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The disease has so far claimed close to 2240 lives, according to the World Health Organisation. 

Several new cases were last week in from Beni Health Zone in North Kivu Province, an area that borders north Uganda and Rwanda. But at the same time, the Uganda side scaled down on prevention activities at border points, raising fear among residents, especially in the areas of Mpondwe and Bwera, a major transit route for traders to and from DRC.  

But the Ministry of Health says that what was closed are the undesignated border points, which were costly for the government to maintain. She, however, didn’t divulge details on the exact number of closed points and how much the government was spending on them.   

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According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are only 20 formal border points being used alongside over 100 informal, undesignated or porous points. Most of these had screening facilities at the height of the outbreak. 

In an interview with Uganda Radio Network early this month, local leaders in Kasese expressed fear that traders from the neighbouring towns were not using the few designated points for screening. This presents a risk for Ugandan communities because many end up in contact with the same persons in markets and public places around the area.

Katwe Town Council Mayor John Bosco Kananura asked that the Bwera screening centre be restored since Bwera is one of the key business hubs between Uganda and DRC. But, Aceng says these can be reinstated as and when a need arises.  

//Cue in; “Because of the…. 

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She said until DR Congo is declared Ebola-free, they still get real-time alerts noting that if there was an outbreak in Hoima as was being rumoured the Ministry would have already confirmed it.    

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Recently the Uganda Red Cross Society also announced a partial withdrawal of Ebola screening volunteers from the Uganda-Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC borders.

Red Cross had deployed surveillance staff at seven entry points including Bunagana, Chanika, Kanombe Nteko, Busanza, Rugabano and Busigi. However, the volunteers were withdrawn from the entry points with the exception of Bunagana and Chanika.

Uganda Red Cross Secretary-General Robert Kwesiga said that  the decision to scale down the number of volunteers at the border points was agreed upon by the National Task Force which is chaired by the Ministry of Health.

He added that Red Cross teams would concentrate more on the risk communication and community surveillance to empower people with skills of detection and reporting suspected cases while manning the major entry points with more risks like Mpondwe, Busunga, Butoogo, Kazaroho, Cyanika, Bunagana in Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Bunyangabu, Kanungu, and Kihiihi among other places.

7.9million travellers had been screened at the various points by end of the year 2019.

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