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UN Ebola chief to tackle security, political issues in DRC

The virus has killed 1,223 of the 1,847 people who have fallen ill, making it the second-worst Ebola outbreak on record.

FILE: A new Ebola outbreak has been declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Picture: @WHOAFRO/Twitter.

GENEVA - The United Nations named an Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator on Thursday to help improve efforts to contain a 10-month epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that has killed more than 1,200 people.

David Gressly has been appointed to the new post, the United Nations and World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement.

“He will oversee the coordination of international support for the Ebola response and work to ensure that an enabling environment - particularly security and political - is in place to allow the Ebola response to be even more effective,” it said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo called on Wednesday for Merck’s experimental Ebola vaccine to be fully licensed to facilitate its use in the Ebola-hit country, while saying Johnson & Johnson’s rival drug would complicate matters.

Both vaccines are experimental drugs that can be used under strictly controlled research protocols, but Merck’s has been used throughout the outbreak and has proven highly effective, the WHO says.

Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga told reporters in Geneva that the government would roll out a “geographic ring” vaccination strategy in the coming days.

“You do not only vaccinate the people in the household,” he said. “You have to consider the household as the case and then vaccinate all the households around the case.”

The virus has killed 1,223 of the 1,847 people who have fallen ill, making it the second-worst Ebola outbreak on record.