East Africa: Rwanda, Congolese Health Ministers Meet Over Ebola Crisis

Congolese interim health minister Pierre Kangudia on Tuesday arrived in Rwanda for discussions on strategies to prevent Ebola.

Mr Kangudia is expected to hold private talks with Rwanda's minister of health, Diane Gashumba, at Serena Hotel in Rwanda's border town of Gisenyi.

An official confirmed that the ministers are expected to discuss how to improve screening at the border, preparedness and how to strengthen health services.

"The ministers will discuss methods on how to co-operate better in managing this Ebola epidemic in Goma and further assess mechanisms to prevent it from spreading into Rwanda," Zacharie Gahungu, adviser to Ms Gashumba, told The EastAfrican.

It will be the first time both ministers are meeting since the outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever in the eastern Congolese city of Goma in late July.

The duo are also expected to discuss the challenge paused by smugglers who use porous border routes between the two countries.

Ms Gashumba had last week warned that illegal porous border crossings were a challenge as people were likely to avoid screening at the borders points.

She said that the passage will be treated as a "national security concern" and the perpetrators face charges including "destabilising state security."

Mr Kangudia was confirmed interim health minister following the sudden resignation of long-term minister Ilunga Kalenga.

Mr Kalenga resigned in protest after he had been stripped of responsibility by President Felix Tshisekedi to manage the epidemic outbreak.

"As a result of your decision to place the response to the Ebola outbreak under your direct supervision and because I anticipate that this decision will inevitably lead to a predictable outcry, I submit to you my resignation as Health Minister," Mr Kalenga said in a letter to President Tshisekedi.

"Like it is in any war; because that is what this is, there cannot be several centres of decision-making for risk of creating confusion."

Rwanda last week briefly closed its borders to DRC for a few hours after a third case of Ebola was confirmed in Goma.

It also cautioned against unnecessary border crossings to the regions in Goma where the haemorrhagic fever had been reported.

No Ebola case has been reported in Rwanda but the country has conducted several drills to equip health workers, emergency responders and hospitals in case of an outbreak.

On top of the daily border surveillance, the ministry said it had trained over 23,600 medical personnel, police officers and volunteers, as well as conducted countywide sensitisation campaigns about the virus.

At least 1,803 people have died from the virus in the second worst outbreak of Ebola on record, according to World Health Organization statistics.

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