March 24, 2019

Ebola Epidemic in DRC Out of Control as Death Toll Rises - MSF

10 March 2019, 05:23 | Silvia Roy

MSF condemns 'militarised' response to Ebola outbreak

Doctors Without Borders hampered by violence in responding to Ebola in Congo

"The existing atmosphere can only be described as toxic", Liu told reporters in Geneva.

MSF recently suspended its operations in the epicentre of the outbreak - in Katwa and Butembo in North Kivu province - following violent attacks on Ebola treatment centres.

The second largest Ebola outbreak in history is now taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The use of security forces in the area is also complicating efforts, she said.

MSF alleged security forces had used "coercion" while overseeing safe burials, tracking contacts and assisting with the admission of patients into treatment centres.

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Liu criticized the militarization of the situation, saying Thursday that police and security forces are trying to force people to comply with health authorities.

In just the last month, "there were more than 30 different incidents and attacks against elements of the response", she said. Dr. Liu said aid groups must rethink their Ebola response strategies to better contain the outbreak. 'The communities are not the enemy.

DRC officials countered by insisting military personnel deployed to the outbreak area are not "involved in Ebola response activities" and have not been instructed to "enforce sanitary measures".

The Interior Ministry has been asked to guarantee security, as it is unacceptable for health officials to be threatened and attacked, or for the threat of violence to stop families burying their loved ones in a dignified and safe manner, she said.

"We have tools and innovations that previously we only dreamed of. and yet, despite all of this, the signs are that Ebola is not under control", Lieu said.

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"Contrary to worldwide agents, local health workers don't have the privilege of being evacuated when security conditions worsen".

Forty percent of deaths were outside medical centres, meaning patients had not sought care, and 35% of new patients were not linked to existing cases, meaning the spread of the disease was not being tracked.

In other developments, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) health ministry today reported seven new Ebola cases and responded to concerns about the response, which today included a visit from top World Health Organization (WHO) officials.

"We have a striking contradiction", Liu said. Relying more heavily on security backup from local police, the Congolese Army, or United Nations peacekeepers in the region is increasing the perception that the Ebola response workers are 'the enemy, ' Liu warned.

The failure to overcome the ongoing epidemic has seen it evolve into the second largest ever breakout of its kind, trailing an epidemic between 2013-2016 which killed about 11,300 people in West Africa as it surged through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

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