File photo shows medical workers prepare for the launch of the Ebola vaccination campaign in the Equateur province in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (Xinhua/Wang Songyu)
ADDIS ABABA, July 26 (Xinhua) -- The African Union (AU) has reiterated its grave concern over the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The outbreak also presents a serious threat to peace and security in the country, the region and the African continent as a whole, according to an AU statement.
The Ebola virus has caused 1,621 deaths in the DRC as of July 17 in an outbreak that is the second largest in the history of Ebola since it was discovered in 1976.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last week declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak as public health emergency of international concern.
In its latest meeting, the AU Peace and Security Council deliberated on the outbreak of Ebola in the Eastern part of the DRC, whereby it called for urgent measures to control the disease and eliminate its spreading to other parts of the country or neighboring countries, said the statement.
Strongly condemning the attacks against public health centers and health workers in the eastern part of the DRC, the Council urged all armed groups in Eastern DRC to observe an immediate ceasefire to allow public health workers to fulfill their mandate, consisting in saving lives of innocent civilians.
It has further urged the government of DRC, in close cooperation with the AU and the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to provide the necessary protection to the health workers and public health centers.
Expressing deep concern that three of affected the most affected areas of the Eastern part of the country are experiencing security challenges, the council said the outbreak has the potential to undermine the tremendous progress made in the region.
It called for joint renewed efforts, both within Africa and from partners to combat the epidemic.
It also decided to authorize the immediate deployment of an AU Mission Against Ebola in DRC (MAEC), comprising medical doctors, laboratory experts, epidemiologists, nurses and other medical and paramedical personnel, as well as security personnel, as required for the protection of the Mission and treatment centers, in close coordination with the relevant DRC authorities and MONUSCO.
It urged all AU member states not to close its borders or place any restriction on travel and cross-border trade.
The council called upon all AU member states, private sectors and the international community as a whole, to extend the necessary financial and technical support to the deployment of the AU Mission against Ebola outbreak in the DRC.