Published: Sat, March 09, 2019
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Ebola Response In DR Congo 'Failing' To Contain Outbreak: MSF

Ebola Response In DR Congo 'Failing' To Contain Outbreak: MSF

Doctors Without Borders is warning that the effort to control Congo's Ebola outbreak is hampered by a "toxic" security situation including a series of attacks on its treatment centers.

The worldwide organisation's president, Joanne Liu, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday that there have been some "30 different incidents and attacks against elements of the response".

The medical aid group has temporarily suspended its operations at two treatment centres located in the epidemic's epicentre after both were set ablaze by unknown attackers. "Using police to force people into complying with health measures is not only unethical, it's counter-productive".

Ensuring the coffin of a young Ebola victim is sealed. The sick were not suits in the Ebola centers, "away from their families and surrounded by people in space", said Liu.

There have been "30 different incidents and attacks against elements of the response" to the outbreak, according to Doctors Without Borders.

At least 569 people have died among the 907 confirmed and probable cases, according to the World Health Organisation.

A mother of a child, suspected of dying from Ebola, cries outside a hospital during the funeral in Beni, North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, December 17, 2018.

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Amid the turmoil, health workers and emergency responders have struggled to win the cooperation of affected communities, many of which are deeply distrustful of the government and a rollout of medical strategies - supervised by security forces - which have clashed with local customs.

There were signs the outbreak - the second worst ever - was not being brought under control. She included her own organization among those that had fallen short and urged medical teams to treat Ebola patients "as humans and not as a biothreat". "[Villagers] see their relatives sprayed with chlorine and wrapped in plastic bags, buried without ceremony". More than 40 per cent of the deaths are still taking place in communities rather than at Ebola treatment centres, according to the group, also known by its French acronym MSF. "Then they see their possessions burned", she said.

"We have seen outbreaks end in areas where the communities have become engaged, from health workers to religious leaders to youth groups", Jasarevic said.

"They hear constant advice to wash their hands, but nothing about the lack of soap and water", Liu said.

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

MSF, which is active across DRC, is considering whether to resume activities in the two areas, but is intent on avoiding the use of security personnel on site or in rounding up patients, Liu said.

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