Emergency food aid is being delivered to people affected by the Ebola virus in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the World Food Programme (WFP) reported on Thursday.
The UN agency is airlifting high energy biscuits from its warehouse in Dubai to Goma, capital of North Kivu province, where an Ebola outbreak was declared on 1 August.
So far, 111 cases have been recorded, 83 of which have been confirmed, while more than 4,000 people have been vaccinated.
“This tenth Ebola outbreak is unfolding in an area of active armed conflict and displacement. It poses a risk of a regional health emergency involving three countries – DRC, Rwanda and Uganda,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP Country Director, in a press release.
“With its food assistance, logistics and air support already firmly in place, WFP is committed to do even more, to save lives and to prevent the epidemic from spreading.”
WFP and its partner, Caritas, are providing food to patients and caregivers in hospitals in the town of Mangina as well as in Beni, located in the epicentre of the outbreak.
High energy biscuits are often used in emergency situations as they are easy to transport and do not require cooking, the agency explained.
Food is also being distributed to villages in the area, with around 4,000 people receiving a month’s supply of cereal, beans, oil and salt. WFP wants to reach those who have been in contact with affected people and their families in efforts to limit population movements and prevent the virus from being spread further.
Prior to the outbreak, WFP was already assisting hundreds of thousands of people in North Kivu province who were displaced by fighting, with 12,000 in Beni territory receiving monthly food rations since July.
WFP also has been providing logistical support to the DRC’s Ministry of Health and its sister UN agency, the World Health Organization (WHO). This same approach was taken during the Ebola outbreak in DRC’s Equateur province in May, which was recently halted
The agency has deployed three mobile warehouses to Beni, while seven of its trucks carry medicine, food, cars, motorbikes, thermometers, refrigerators, and other supplies to treatment centres.
Meanwhile, WFP aviation specialists are helping with air traffic management in and out of the town, while WFP-run humanitarian flights transport aid workers as well as medical and protection equipment, and other cargo, between Goma and Beni each day.
The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu province is the 10th in the DRC in 40 years.
Ebola virus was first identified in 1976. WHO said although its origin is not known, fruit bats potentially may be a host.