WHO suspends work on Ebola in Congo amid militant attacks

27 September, 2018, 14:58 | Author: Veronica Peterson
  • Ebola Eastern Congo

"We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming together in the next weeks or months to create a potentially ideal storm".

World Health Organization staff are confined to hotels and their operating centre in Beni for security reasons so their ability to track potential new infections has fallen sharply, WHO's emergency response chief Peter Salama told a press conference in Geneva.

Militants believed to belong to the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan militant group active in eastern Congo, clashed with Congolese troops in Beni, a town of several hundred thousand people, local civil society leader Kizito Bin Hangi said by telephone.

Medical team wear protective suits as they prepare to administer Ebola patient care at The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) treatment centre in Beni, North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The first began in May and caused ripples of fear throughout the global health community when it reached Mbandaka, a city of more than 1 million on the banks of the heavily trafficked Congo and Ruki rivers.

The health ministry says 100 people have died in the current outbreak in the east of the country.

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Ebola's devastating power was proved during a harrowing 30-month period between 2014 and 2016 when it swept across West Africa, killing more than 11,000 and infecting 28,000.

Overnight on Monday, unidentified assailants entered the town of Oïcha, about 20 km (12 miles) north of Beni, burned houses, killed one man and kidnapped 14 children and one woman, according to two local officials.

The attack underscores the challenges the government and health organisations face in tackling Ebola in an area where years of instability has undermined locals' confidence in the authorities.

"We also see a very concerning trend that resistance, driven by quite natural fear of this terrifying disease, is starting to be exploited by local politicians", Salama said at a news conference on Tuesday, "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". Since that date, 11,563 people, including medical staff, have been vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Health, which is leading the vaccination program with support from WHO and worldwide partners, including Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). The confusion may make it hard to extinguish the outbreak, he said. Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi also border the region.


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