More than US $ 2million to tackle Marburg

More than US $2 million has been allocated by various agencies this week to help fight the Marburg outbreak in Angola.

The European Commission (EC) provided an additional $1.9 million, while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) stepped in with over $200,000 to tackle the outbreak, the largest and deadliest of this rare disease.

According to the World Health Organisation's latest update, 266 cases of Marburg haemorrhagic fever have been reported in Angola, of which 244 were fatal. Uige province remains the epicentre of the outbreak.

Last month the EC channelled almost $650,000 through Medecins Sans Frontieres Spain and Holland to help tackle the Marburg outbreak.

"The Marburg fever is extremely worrying because it is so contagious and virulent - that is why we have decided to fund essential health work, to help stem the spread of the virus. At the same time, it is important to provide reliable information about who is at risk and how it is spread, in order to prevent unnecessary panic and stigmatisation of victims," said Louis Michel, who heads ECHO, the EC's humanitarian aid department.

Over the next three months the EC funds will be used for the purchase of special equipment to protect health workers; essential relief items, such as blankets and water containers, and medicines such as antibiotics. The money will also go towards providing clean water; air transport of medical staff and supplies to the affected locations; support for quarantine and other public health measures, and community emergency education/information.

The IFRC intends to use the amount allocated from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to provide non-food relief assistance to 400 affected families, and reach at least 100,000 people with its awareness campaigns on the disease.

"We urgently need masks for volunteers, and household items like mattresses," said Tamuka Chitemere, the senior disaster management officer at the IFRC's Southern Africa office. Marburg is highly contagious and items that come into contact with infected people, such as mattresses, are being destroyed as a precautionary measure.

Chitemere, who was in Uige last week, told IRIN that although the Marburg outbreak was continuing, communities were reluctant to use the health facilities provided and there was an urgent need to intensify community social mobilisation, increase the involvement of local community leaders, and facilitate relations between families, the health structure and health workers.

In Uige, 18,000 leaflets were being distributed by trained teams from the Angola Red Cross and the government, while an additional one million brochures would be printed and then distributed in the capital, Luanda, and all provinces at risk, according to IFRC. The Angola Red Cross needs 80 volunteers to conduct social mobilisation.

From April to June the IFRC wants to provide a once-off non-food item distribution to affected families, and develop a first aid assistance programme for affected families, who will also be provided with moral and psychological support.