Press release

Minister for Africa hails UK and Uganda co-operation in fighting infectious diseases

UK to suppport Uganda’s National Task Force with up to £5.1 million for Ebola preparedness and prevention.

UK Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin meeting Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda
UK Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin meeting Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda

Today (Friday 5 October) the UK Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin has visited the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute (URVI) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Entebbe, hailing the historical and strong collaboration between the UK and Ugandan governments.

Established under an agreement between the Ugandan and the British Governments in 1988, it is currently at the forefront of cutting edge research on HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases including Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers such as the Ebola virus.

Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin said:

I am delighted to visit the URVI and see the successes of a 30 year partnership between the UK and Uganda on research into HIV and related diseases.

The new partnership between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Institute shows the very best of UK expertise helping to prevent deadly diseases in both the world’s poorest regions and at home.

While visiting the Institute the Minister announced, in collaboration with Uganda’s Ministry of Health and channeled through four UN agencies, that the UK will support Uganda’s National Task Force with up to £5.1 million to support Ebola preparedness and prevention efforts in Uganda.

This funding will support surveillance in high-risk districts at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); risk reduction communication amongst communities; infection prevention and control measures as well as provide for improved case management. A significant proportion of the funding will also provide core relief items (basic household necessities) to allow newly arrived refugees to leave overcrowded and high-risk transit and reception centres, therefore reducing further the risk of spread of Ebola.

The UK government and World Health Organisation (WHO) judge Uganda’s current preparedness efforts to be strong. However, the risk of the disease spreading beyond the border from DRC is high and the funding will support timely interventions to strengthen screening at points of entry including the Entebbe international airport.

Notes to editors

  • Following the signing of strategic transfer agreements between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Medical Research Council UK (MRC UK), the MRC/UVRI formerly joined LSHTM on 1 February 2018. The exciting new partnership will boost research capacity into current and emerging health issues in Africa and throughout the world.

  • The Government of the Uganda supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are leading implementation of Uganda’s National Preparedness and Initial Response plan. There have been five outbreaks of Ebola in Uganda since 2000 and the country is familiar with managing outbreaks of the disease

  • On the 1 August 2018, the Ministry of Health in the DRC declared an outbreak of Ebola in Eastern DRC. As of 1 October, the total number of confirmed and probable cases was 159, with 101 deaths. There are high population movements between the DRC and Uganda that mean the risk of transmission to Uganda is high. This includes normal trade plus an influx of refugees fleeing conflict in the DRC. Since January 2018, close to 100,000 refugees (98,103) have arrived in Uganda from the DRC. Insecurity in Eastern DRC continues to hamper the response to the outbreak as access is severely restricted in conflict-affected areas.

  • The Government of the Uganda supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are leading implementation of Uganda’s National Preparedness and Initial Response plan. There have been five outbreaks of Ebola in Uganda since 2000 and the country is familiar with managing outbreaks of the disease.

  • Recently, security incidents around the city of Beni have led to certain elements of the Ebola response being temporarily suspended. While Ebola treatment centres have remained open, vaccination, contact tracing, and community engagement activities had to be ceased temporarily from 23 to 25 September.

  • We expect that this temporary suspension in contact tracing and community engagement may lead to an increase in case numbers in the coming days. However, now that the response is fully operational once again, we expect WHO, the DRC Government, and their implementing partners to be able to manage a potential increase in the caseload.

  • In response to the increase in cases, the emergence of cases in new health zones, and the challenges faced in delivering the response, the WHO and the DRC Government are releasing a renewed response plan, which will extend the response by three months and request additional funds.

  • The UK will provide further funding through WHO, which will enable: surveillance, vaccination of at-risk groups; establishing sanitary control points; community engagement; communications and awareness-raising; and coordination. We are also funding critical surge roles to UN agencies in the DRC and neighbouring countries.

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Published 5 October 2018