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Armed Assailants Attack Newly Reopened Ebola Treatment Center in Congo

The attack in Butembo came in the early-morning hours and left one police officer dead and several workers injured

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Health workers are seen through a bullet hole left in the window of an Ebola treatment center, which was attacked in early on March 9, 2019, in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Armed assailants on Saturday attacked an Ebola treatment center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo less than a week after it reopened following a previous attack. 

The attack in Butembo came in the early-morning hours and left one police officer dead and several workers injured. 

Butembo Mayor Sylvain Kanyamanda told reporters that security forces had defended the center and wounded one of the attackers. 

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited the center several hours later and encouraged health care workers to continue fighting the deadly Ebola virus. 

“It breaks my heart to think of the health workers injured and police officer who died in today’s attack, as we continue to mourn those who died in previous attacks while defending the right to health,” Ghebreyesus told reporters. “We have no choice except to continue serving the people here, who are among the most vulnerable in the world.” 

After the previous attack on the Butembo center, Doctors Without Borders suspended its operations in the city.

congo, ebola treatment
A woman looks at burned equipement in an Ebola treatment center, which was attacked early on March 9, 2019, in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Precautions stir doubts

Anti-Ebola efforts already have faced adversity from residents suspicious of the extensive precautions taken by the health care workers to stop the spread of the highly contagious disease. Because Ebola virus can be transmitted through a victim’s bodily fluids even after death, even burial of the victims requires stringent safety protocols.

Thursday, Doctors Without Borders President Joanne Liu said the containment efforts used to control the latest outbreak of Ebola, which started in August last year, faced a “climate of deepening community mistrust” that was worsened by the use of security guards at treatment centers.

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Congo’s health ministry has warned the attacks in Butembo and on another treatment center in Katwa last month can lead to a “significant upsurge” in new Ebola cases.

More than 86 percent of the confirmed cases over the past three weeks came from Butembo and Katwa, according to the health ministry.

The current outbreak is considered the worst since the two-year outbreak in West Africa that started in 2014 and killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO to Strengthen Strategies to Combat Ebola Epidemic in Congo

The WHO's latest report counted 1,738 cases of Ebola in Congo, including 1,218 deaths

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FILE - A priest watches as health workers dressed in Ebola protective suits prepare the body of an Ebola patient for burial at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, March 26, 2019. VOA

A panel of World Health Organization experts says strategies must be strengthened to combat the worsening Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The WHO’s latest report counted 1,738 cases of Ebola in Congo, including 1,218 deaths.

Congo’s minister of health, Oly Ilungo, likened the Ebola epidemic to a multi-headed dragon. Speaking through an interpreter, he said the epidemic began in one place, Mangina, but keeps popping up elsewhere.

“Our response, therefore, needs to continually adapt itself to the situation,” said Ilungo. “We need to continually adapt and change our strategy bearing in mind lessons learned.”

He said prevention measures, surveillance, the tracing of infected people, timely treatment and safe burial practices must be maintained. At the same time, he said old tools need to be refreshed and improved.

ebola
FILE – Victorine Siherya, an Ebola survivor working as a caregiver to babies who are confirmed Ebola cases, holds an infant outside the red zone at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 25, 2019. VOA

He proposed setting up a data-driven system, which compiles all the information produced in the response effort.

“Increasingly, it manages to carry out analyses that allow us to get ahead of the problem and we can identify the danger areas where there might be a greater risk of the virus spreading and we can get ahead of the problem,” he added.

The WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, finds the increasing number of new Ebola cases extremely worrying and challenging. She warned the risk of the disease spreading beyond Congo’s borders is very high.

She said the DRC’s nine neighboring countries are aware of the dangers and, with the help of the WHO, have taken many steps to prepare for that possibility.

Ebola
An Ebola health worker is seen at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo, April, 16, 2019. The World Health Organization is warning it may not be possible to contain Ebola to the two affected provinces in eastern Congo if violent attacks on health teams continue. VOA

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“We have 16 Ebola-treatment centers and units having been established across the nine countries,” she said. “And, in addition over 4,500 health workers have been trained to be able to detect and manage these cases.The countries have continued to engage with communities to raise their awareness in all high-risk areas.”

WHO officials are appealing for intensified international political engagement and financial support to combat Ebola. They warn the further spread of the dangerous disease would have serious social and economic regional implications and would trigger an even greater crisis. (VOA)