Violence impeding Democratic Republic of Congo Ebola efforts, aid group says

Faith Castro
March 9, 2019

MSF said the Ebola response must change direction, and it had several suggestions, including giving disease management choices back to patients and their families, addressing communities' other dire health needs, and avoiding coercion tactics.

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) need to reframe their approach to the ongoing Ebola epidemic in the country as an issue of managing an infectious disease rather than a security problem, giving patients more control over their treatment, Joanne Liu, the worldwide president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) charity, said during a press conference on Thursday.

Seven months into the outbreak, 'the Ebola response is failing to bring the epidemic under control, ' Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement. As a result of such violence, the "Ebola response [is] failing to gain the upper hand on the epidemic", the organization says in a press release.

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

Unidentified attackers last week torched two of MSF's treatment facilities at the focal point of the epidemic, in the towns of Butembo and Katwa in North Kivu, prompting the charity to suspend its operations in the area.

The New York Times on Thursday contributed the story of a family that dressed up a young woman who died of Ebola, painted her face with makeup, propped her up in the seat of a auto, and attempted to drive her through disease-control checkpoints so she could be buried next to her husband, a fellow Ebola victim. "Using police to force people into complying with health measures is not only unethical, it's totally counterproductive".

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

Liu said Ebola is a brutal disease that breeds fear and isolation to patients, families, and health providers.

Ebola responders have increasingly been seen as the enemy, with more than 30 attacks and incidents against the Ebola response in the past month alone, she said. More than 40% of Ebola deaths are still taking place in communities rather than at treatment centres, according to the group. The increase the risk of Infection for other people.

MSF was insisting on security before it returned to its damaged facilities, she said.

"That means that we have not reached them, and they have not sought our care", Liu said.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic, meanwhile, said while it was "not ideal" for security forces to be present at treatment centres or during health workers' visits to the community, "the WHO and partners must keep our workers safe".

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