TRAVEL UPDATE: Uganda Declared Ebola Free

“I now confirm that all transmission chains have been fully interrupted and I take this opportunity to declare that the outbreak is over, and Uganda is now free of active Ebola transmission.”

The announcement from Uganda’s Minister of Health, Dr. Aceng Jane Ruth Ocero was met with palpable excitement. There were loud hand claps and shouts of joy at the Mubende Municipality Mayors’ Gardens, at the ceremony where World Health Organization and the Government of Uganda declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in the country.     

“I cannot believe what I am witnessing!” Lawrence Sajjabi, a resident of Mubende Municipality says, “I remember the days of Ebola lockdown here in Mubende when we were not allowed to move or transact our businesses freely and we even feared each other!” 

The outbreak

On 20th September 2022, Uganda’s Ministry of Health declared an Ebola outbreak after a confirmed case at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital in western Uganda. This was the seventh Ebola outbreak in the country and first time in more than a decade, of the highly virulent Sudan Virus Disease (SVD) strain. The source of this outbreak, like many others, is still unknown.

The outbreak which started in Madudu Sub County later spread to the districts of Kassanda, Kyegegwa, Kagadi, Bunyangabu, Wakiso, Jinja, Masaka and Kampala. By the time of declaring Uganda Ebola free on 11th January 2023, a total of 143 cases were confirmed with 22 probable cases, 55 deaths (case fatality rate of 39 per cent), and 87 recoveries. Of the 143 confirmed cases 85 (59 per cent) were males while 58 (41 per cent) females. By age, 26 (18 per cent) were children while 117 (82 per cent) were adults.

During this outbreak, the main drivers of transmission were household infection, amplification in some private health facilities and unrecommended burial practices, while the portals of transmission included contact, sexual and transplacental.

Key interventions

As the co-chair of the Ebola response National Task Force, UNICEF engaged district and community structures to deliver lifesaving services including infection prevention and control, water sanitation and hygiene, risk communication and community engagement, mental health and psychosocial support, as well as nutrition.

The UNICEF teams worked closely with the government to ensure continuity of essential health and education services, particularly in Kassanda and Mubende districts’ which were placed under lockdown as part of the preventive measures. A key highlight was the safe transportation of 12,468 learners back home to and out of Kassanda and Mubende, following the closure of the academic year in December.

UNICEF teams also directly engaged in various response mechanisms including risk communication and community engagements through provision of real time Information and education communication (IEC) materials with facts on Ebola, radio and TV messages, house to house sensitization, community dialogue meetings with key influencers like traditional, cultural and religious leaders and community members, provision of water and sanitation & hygiene facilities to health facilities, ETUs and schools and training of responders to support  prevention and the spread of Ebola.

On 11th January 2023, 114 days after the first confirmed case in Uganda, the Minister of Health declared the country free of active Ebola transmission. This came after two incubation cycles of 21 days each, making a total of 42 days since the discharge of last confirmed case

While thanking all partners at the declaration ceremony that was attended by leaders from all Ebola-affected districts, health development partners including UN agencies, USAID, Centre for Disease Control, UKaid, UN CERF, European Union Humanitarian Aid and Ambassadors of different countries, the United Nations Resident Coordinator Susan Ngongi Namondo also noted the need to fight stigma and continue surveillance to prevent another outbreak.

For the communities in Uganda, particularly Mubende and Kassanda districts which were under lockdown, the declaration marks a return to normalcy. Edward Habiyaremye, the Local Council III Chairperson of Madudu Sub County which was also the epi-centre of the outbreak could not hide his joy. 

“I am very happy, and my people are happy, and they can now freely go about their daily routines”, he says


Willaim Wright

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