September 13, 2019
Secretary Azar Meets with Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi about Ebola Outbreak
KINSHASA, DRC—Today, September 13, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, joined by other senior U.S. health officials, met with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi and other senior DRC officials as joint efforts continue to contain and end one of the most serious current global health challenges, the Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC. To date, this outbreak has infected more than 3,000 people and led to the deaths of more than 2,000 others. Monitoring the outbreak, coordinating with the DRC and other governments, and providing the necessary financial, technological, and scientific assistance has been one of the top global health priorities for the Trump Administration since this outbreak began in August 2018.
Secretary Azar’s visit follows President Tshisekedi’s visit to the United States in April, demonstrating the close partnership and commitment between the U.S. and DRC to end the second deadliest Ebola outbreak on record. During today’s meeting, Secretary Azar and President Tshisekedi reinforced their strong commitment to contain the Ebola outbreak, and Secretary Azar stressed that the United States stands with the people of DRC and in their fight not just against Ebola, but also measles, malaria, cholera, and other diseases.
Also while in Kinshasa, Secretary Azar participated in his first meeting with the newly appointed Minister of Health Dr. Eteni Longondo. Secretary Azar and Minister Longondo discussed opportunities to build upon the DRC and the U.S. governments’ history of strong collaboration on health initiatives, particularly on efforts led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They discussed how we can work together to improve the health of the Congolese people, to prevent the spread of Ebola, and end the outbreak as soon as possible through a multilateral approach, led by the Congolese, with non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, governments, and others.
Additionally, Secretary Azar and other U.S. officials met with Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, DRC National Ebola Response Coordinator and Director of the National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB). Dr. Muyembe has long been a leader on Ebola research, was just awarded the Noguchi Prize for his groundbreaking work, and is leading vaccination and outbreak response efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak. The meeting afforded the Secretary an opportunity to see Dr. Muyembe’s laboratory and to praise the multi-decade collaboration between Dr. Muyembe, the INRB, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), led by Dr. Anthony Fauci. This collaboration between the United States and DRC helped the DRC conduct clinical trials during the current Ebola outbreak, through an international research consortium coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO). The clinical trials led to the identification of two therapeutics, REGN-EB3 and mAb114, that proved to have success in treating patients with the Ebola virus disease.
As coordinated efforts to end the Ebola outbreak continue, the U.N.’s peacekeeping operation in DRC, known as MONUSCO, is actively working to assist the DRC government in stabilization efforts and to protect Ebola response sites and teams. The U.S. is the single largest donor to MONUSCO, highlighting the importance of the safety and wellbeing of the communities and responders to this crisis. Secretary Azar met with the Special Representative of the Secretary General Leila Zerrougui to discuss coordinated Ebola response efforts.
During the day, Secretary Azar also met with CDC and U.S. Embassy Kinshasa employees, who are tirelessly working in challenging environments to end the Ebola outbreak. Their collaboration with the DRC government and other HHS response teams, including NIH, FDA, and ASPR/BARDA, has delivered strong results in containing the spread of the outbreak.
Additional information and details regarding the delegation’s meetings and site visits will be forthcoming in news releases and social media posts.