Deadly attack restricts Ebola treatment in DR Congo

Ben Davidson
September 27, 2018

A deadly attack in the city of Beni killed over a dozen civilians over the weekend, a territory which is already fighting an Ebola outbreak.

Saturday's attack was pinned on the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist group, in local media reports, though with dozens of armed militias active in eastern Congo, establishing culpability is hard.

Dr. Peter Salama said the response to the deadly hemorrhagic fever is at a "critical juncture" in eastern North Kivu province, where the outbreak was declared almost two months ago.

This means that teams involved in contact tracing and vaccination are not able to do their work in affected zones.

"As the days go on, if we do see unsafe burials that can't be responded to, if we do see symptomatic people that can't be accessed, we can see this situation deteriorating very quickly".

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Health officials said it could hinder the response there to Ebola, a serious, often-fatal disease that is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads from human to human through the bodily fluids of people who exhibit symptoms. "That resistance, driven by quite natural fear of this terrifying disease, is starting to be exploited by local politicians, and we're very concerned in the run up to elections, projected for December, that that exploitation. will gather momentum and make it very hard to root out the last cases of Ebola".

Perhaps the most hard aspect of an Ebola outbreak to control is misinformation.

This progress risks being undone by the uptick in violence in the Kivus region, which is home to more than 100 armed groups, he said, before noting that neighbouring countries now also face an increased risk of the disease spreading.

Though agencies continued the health work to contain Ebola, such attacks hamper those efforts. The Congolese army has blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a notorious rebel militia.

"I don't believe...we can stop Ebola without a very significant presence of United Nations and partners, despite the fact that the Ministry of Health has exerted great leadership and is doing an extremely good job in this response", he added. There are no plans for World Health Organization or other United Nations staff to pull out, he said.

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