Ebola treatment centres attacks hamper aid efforts in Congo

09 Mars, 2019, 15:46 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • DRC Should Treat Ebola As Epidemic Rather Than Security Issue- MSF President

The current strategy to fight the Ebola outbreak in the Congo has failed is Convinced that the aid organisation Doctors without borders (MSF).

Tackling Ebola in DR Congo was always going to be a huge challenge - decades of conflict mean health services are weak or non-existent, different communities fear one another, and they fear the security services.

The use of police and armed forces to compel people to comply with health measures against Ebola is leading to further alienation of the community and is counterproductive to controlling the epidemic.

The centre in Butembo, the epicentre of DR Congo's latest Ebola outbreak, is now run by the health ministry in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations children's organisation Unicef, the authorities said.

The MSF global president stressed that people were facing the biggest Ebola outbreak in the history of the country as "907 people have fallen sick from Ebola, 569 of them have died".

Regarding the attacks on the two ETCs, MSF said it doesn't know the motives or identities of the attackers, but the violence follows escalating tensions in the outbreak area that have also included dozens of security incidents against response efforts in February.

The outbreak has killed at least 569 people and there are 907 confirmed and probable cases, according to the World Health Organization.

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Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, has suspended its Ebola activities in Katwa and Butembo in North Kivu Province. "Communities are not the enemy". The effort was unsuccessful but demonstrated both a lack of understanding about how Ebola works and a lack of trust in the authorities, especially what rural Congolese see as a lack of respect for their burial traditions.

"They see their relatives sprayed with chlorine and wrapped in plastic bags, buried without ceremony. Then they see their possessions burned", she says.

Liu said there were still signs the outbreak - the second worst ever - was not being brought under control.

MSF's latest update on the Congo outbreak stated that over 40 percent of the new cases of Ebola detected this year were people who contracted the disease and died without leaving their communities to seek medical treatment.

Involvement of security and police forces merely deepen suspicions that Ebola is being used as a political tool, she said. "On the other hand, people with Ebola are dying in their communities, and do not trust the Ebola response enough to come forward".

A spokesperson for Congo's health ministry said there appeared to be confusion about the security forces' role.

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