Fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo has interfered again with response to the Ebola crisis in affected regions in the country’s east, with World Health Organization (WHO) officials warning that the violence compromises the progress made in recent months.
“Following another senseless attack on civilians in eastern DRC on Wednesday, Ebola response operations were suspended in Beni and disrupted in Butembo today,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, on Thursday. “This is a double tragedy for the civilians there, as gains against Ebola could be lost if this violence continues.”
Ryan was joined by WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said he was deeply troubled by this week’s developments. “We have seen these violent events not only traumatize communities and responders but also expand the Ebola outbreak,” he said. “Our teams cannot reach contacts or potential patients when access is limited.”
Congolese officials said at least 19 people died in attacks attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Beni region, where military forces have stepped up the effort to contain militants whose violent incursions into communities have repeatedly threatened the Ebola response.
Another Ebola worker died earlier this month in Lwemba, the site of a series of attacks by armed groups against Ebola workers and facilities. The violence led to protests there on Friday, as villagers demanded security forces do more to protect them from ADF rebels.
Ebola transmission has slowed in recent weeks, but new cases still are reported. Health officials report a total of 3,299 confirmed and probable cases since the outbreak began in August 2018, including 2,196 fatalities.
Image: WHO file