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

Joanne Liu MD

In an excoriating attack on the response to the long-running outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo Dr Joanne Liu, global president of Médecins Sans Frontières, said that the current atmosphere in the region was "toxic".

MSF had set his work in two places after an Unknown person had attacked the local treatment centers last week.

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

"More than 40 percent of the deaths are right now happening in the community", outside of treatment centers, Liu said.

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. "It shows how the response has failed to listen and act on the needs of those most affected".

The MSF global president stressed that people were facing the biggest Ebola outbreak in the history of the country as "907 people have fallen sick from Ebola, 569 of them have died".

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"The signs are that Ebola is not under control because within seven months all the indicators are not normal". This time around 80,000 people have been vaccinated against the disease.

"The existing atmosphere can only be described as toxic", she said.

"The police and the army are not involved in Ebola response activities and their role has never been to enforce sanitary measures", Jessica Ilunga said.

Liu tells VOA the government is painting the Ebola epidemic as a security emergency.

An attack by gunmen on one of the centres last week in Butembo forced its temporary closure, but the health ministry said on Monday that the centre would reopen.

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

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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".

In addition, Liu said, 35 percent of the new cases are in people who had not previously been identified as contacts.

Six more people died from their infections, including 3 in the community and 3 in ETCs, boosting the outbreak's fatality count to 574.

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.

"That means we do not know how they got it", Liu said.

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