Amid Ebola Crisis, a Border Closure

Access to and from Rwanda near Congolese city of Goma is now restricted
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2019 8:08 AM CDT
Amid Ebola Crisis, a Border Closure
In this July 16, 2019, photo, health workers dressed in protective gear begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo.   (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Last month, the deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has killed more than 1,800 over the past year, was declared an international health emergency, spurring fears that neighboring nations would seal their borders. Now Rwanda has done just that, at least partly. Access between the two countries near the Congolese city of Goma, where at least two people have died from the virus over the past month, is now closed. "The border can be reopened anytime, when the situation improves," the mayor of Rwanda's Rubavu district tells the BBC, adding the closure was necessary to keep residents from making "unnecessary crossings" into Goma. One of the people who succumbed to the virus in Goma had a 1-year-old daughter, and health officials say she's now showing symptoms.

The AP notes if her case is confirmed, it would be the first verified transmission of Ebola in Goma. Officials are now tasked with finding and vaccinating all those who'd been in recent contact with the girl's late father, as well as contacts of those people, to try to contain the virus. Still, the World Health Organization had previously warned against a knee-jerk stoppage of travel and trade, and the Congolese government has reacted to the Rwandan border closing with a statement noting it "[deplores] this decision, which runs counter to the advice of the WHO." Locals feel likewise. "The closure is terrible for me," one Rwandan tells the BBC, noting his travel into Goma for work is what helps feed his family, which includes seven children. "Yes, Ebola is a terrible thing, but living is what matters most. ... I would rather die of sickness than of hunger." (More Ebola stories.)

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