IOM Supports Ebola Prevention Measures Across East Africa, Enhances Response in DR Congo

Migration Health

Kinshasa – On 01 August, the tenth Ebola outbreak in 40 years was declared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). IOM, the UN Migration Agency, immediately joined the Government-led response to the outbreak in DRC and began assessing and accelerating support in neighbouring countries.

The affected provinces of North Kivu and Ituri share land and water borders with Burundi, South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda. These borders are areas of high population mobility with people frequently crossing back and forth between each country. As of March 2018, 735,000 Congolese refugees reside in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). IOM is taking a regional approach to its Ebola prevention and containment efforts, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and relevant governments.

During the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, IOM developed the Health, Border and Mobility Management Framework (HBMM) for use in locations where the risk of disease transmission is high between migrant and sedentary communities. The framework empowers governments and communities to prevent, detect and respond to health threats at points of origin, transit, destination and return.

Within the framework, IOM’s response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak focuses on mobility and border management (DRC, Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi); data gathering, risk mapping and sharing (DRC, Uganda, South Sudan); health surveillance at points of entry (DRC and South Sudan); elaboration of standard operating procedures, manuals, curricula and contingency plans (DRC and Burundi); and support to cross-border coordination (DRC, Uganda and Burundi).

In DRC, IOM is conducting screening, hygiene promotion and risk communication in 44 points of entry. More than 200 border health staff have also received training on disease surveillance and response from IOM, the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health.

In early October (02/10 - 04/10), IOM joined partners and delegates from the DRC and the East African Community (EAC) Partner States to develop a common regional strategy to enhance cross-border surveillance, emergency preparedness and response to epidemics. As a result, delegates prepared a new framework for monitoring and evaluating national action plans for cross-border disease surveillance.

At the meeting, Dr. Michael J. Katende, the Acting Head of Health Department at EAC Secretariat, highlighted “the need for all of us to work together to ensure information sharing, strengthening community-based surveillance and mapping of porous borders.”

In Burundi, IOM participates in the National Ebola Task Force by providing technical support to the Government of Burundi and revising national contingency plans related to the outbreak. IOM is also implementing a health and humanitarian border management project between Burundi and DRC that will involve training health officials, provision of basic health surveillance equipment and development of joint standard operating procedures. 

In South Sudan, IOM has deployed teams, comprising of health, displacement tracking and water, sanitation and hygiene experts, to its borders with DRC and Uganda. They have set up four health screening points - Okaba, Kaya and two in Yei – and are planning to establish an addition four screening points as part of the prevention measures underway in the country.

Since beginning operations in South Sudan on 18 September, IOM has screened 5,063 people, of whom there are no suspected or confirmed cases. IOM has initiated the Displacement Tracking Matrix’s (DTM) flow monitoring component at screening points to inform on the general migration trends such as number of people crossing the border at these points and departure and destination locations. IOM is also supporting efforts to share messaging on Ebola prevention and detection with communities along the border. IOM’s Ebola preparedness efforts in South Sudan are funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In Uganda, IOM trained 45 immigration, district authorities and Office of the Prime Minister officials on HBMM. IOM is conducting a 21-day-long surveillance on refugees confirmed for resettlement as well as establishing ten flow monitoring points on key border zones that will provide crucial information on cross-border mobility.

Moving forward, IOM will continue to provide support to concerned countries in responding to the outbreak and in reinforcing preparedness to prevent and mitigate public health emergencies of international concern.

For more information, please contact:
Regional Office in Nairobi: Kenneth Odiwuor, Tel: +254722560363, Email:
Regional Office in Pretoria: Abibo Ngandu, Tel: +27712449291, Email:
South Sudan: Olivia Headon, Tel: +211912379843, Email:

  • IOM establishes health screening points on South Sudan’s borders. Photo: IOM 2018