How do you deliver nearly three tons of supplies every day to halt Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) conflict-affected north-eastern region? For the World Health Organization (WHO), a 40-strong operations support and logistics team works almost non-stop to speedily dispatch materials across an area four times the size of neighbouring Rwanda.

Every day, 2.89 metric tons of medical and non-medical supplies and equipment leave WHO hubs in Kinshasa and in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, to hubs in Beni and Butembo towns and five district warehouses. More than 800 vehicles, one plane, two helicopters, four trucks, 410 motorcycles (for accessing remote villages) and 37 ambulances are needed to move the supplies and team members.

Navigating insecurity, bad roads

However, operating in such a vast area which suffers regular armed attacks and insecurity is a complicated undertaking. Dilapidated roads and a hilly terrain add to the immense hurdles in supplying far-flung areas with urgently-needed materials.

“The Ebola epidemic is won by the public health response, and the field is won by the work of the logistics teams,” says Dr Abdou Salam Gueye, WHO Incident Manager for the DRC.

“As most of the difficulties we encounter are because of the environment, it tells the importance of logistics in this operation. Operations Support and Logistics (OSL) is delivering beyond WHO’s own activities as part of a concerted strategy to confine the virus and end the outbreak as soon as possible.”

Typically, WHO OSL supports at least 70% of an emergency response, comprising supply chain management, operation support and health logistics.

Between August 2018 (the beginning of the outbreak) and November 2019, WHO has shipped internationally more than 900 metric tonnes of supplies to Entebbe, Goma, Kigali and Kinshasa, all destined for the Ebola operation’s main and secondary hubs. Nearly half of the supplies were for infection and prevention control and laboratory work.

The organization has to date also delivered more than 17 million gloves, over 2 million surgical masks, 909 000 gowns and over 200 000 doses of Ebola vaccine. Put together, these supplies are equivalent in volume to nearly two Olympic-sized swimming pools. More than 1000 people have survived the virus and over 257 000 have been vaccinated.

To read more visit the WHO Africa page here