UNITED NATIONS, May 23 (Xinhua) -- A United Nations spokesman said Thursday that the organization is stepping up its response to the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has claimed more than 1,200 lives since the outbreak in August in the west African country.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "has set up a strengthened coordination and support mechanism at the epidemic's epicenter in Butemba, with the deputy head of the UN Mission, David Gressly, having been appointed as the UN's Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator," Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, said at the daily news briefing.
Gressly was cited as saying that responders to Ebola "are working in an environment of unprecedented complexity for a public health emergency, with insecurity and political protests having led to disruptions in the efforts to fight the disease."
"Mr. Gressly will oversee the coordination of international support for the Ebola response and work to ensure that an enabling environment, particularly in terms of security and political issues, is in place to allow the Ebola response to be even more effective," said Dujarric.
"He will work closely with the World Health Organization, which will continue to lead all health operations and technical support activities with the government," he added.
The disease was first identified in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks: one in Nzara (a town in South Sudan) and the other in Yambuku (DRC), a village near the Ebola River from which the disease takes its name. The largest outbreak to date was the epidemic in West Africa, which occurred from December 2013 to January 2016 with 28,616 cases and 11,310 deaths.