Armed assailants attack Ebola treatment centre in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing a policeman before being repelled by security forces, the local mayor says.
Armed assailants again attacked an Ebola treatment centre in the heart of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's (or DRC) deadly outbreak on Saturday, with the mayor reporting one police officer killed.
The early-morning attack in Butembo came less than a week after the treatment centre reopened following an attack last month that forced aid group Doctors Without Borders to suspend its operations in the city.
Security forces repelled the Mai Mai militants, one of whom was wounded, Butembo Mayor Sylvain Kanyamanda said.
"Because of previous attacks, a security system was already in place and attackers were quickly confronted by the police officers guarding the ... centre," he told Reuters.
The latest attack, third so far, occurred hours before the World Health Organization director-general visited the centre, which remains open.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus encouraged health workers to continue their fight against the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, which is spreading in a region that health workers have compared to a war zone.
To conquer #Ebola in #DRC, we must strike a delicate balance between providing accessible care, maintaining the neutrality of the response and protecting patients and staff from attacks by armed groups. We are committed to ending the outbreak and we will not leave until we do. pic.twitter.com/oKZJQZ7KoE— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 9, 2019
Dozens of armed groups are active in eastern DRC, though some have allowed health workers access to administer Ebola vaccines and track contacts of infected people after delicate negotiations.
In addition, some residents wary of outsiders after years of deadly rebel attacks have shown hostility to health workers in a region that is facing its first Ebola outbreak.
"In the wake of violent attacks on health workers & treatment units, there is growing recognition that more needs to be done to gain community acceptance."— MSF International (@MSF) March 9, 2019
Our colleague Dr. Vinh-Kim Nguyen explains the challenges the current #Ebola response faces. https://t.co/UQJA8fqBwa
Misunderstandings have been high, especially over the need to conduct safe burials, a highly sensitive issue. Ebola is spread via bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead.
On Thursday, the Doctors Without Borders president warned that Ebola containment efforts face a "climate of deepening community mistrust" seven months after the outbreak was declared.
"Ebola is worsening despite medical progress because trust is breaking down."— MSF International (@MSF) March 9, 2019
Our colleague Dr. Vinh-Kim Nguyen, medical team leader for @MSF in North Kivu, #DRCongo, highlights the main challenges the current #Ebola response is facing.https://t.co/UQJA8fIcnI
Attacks in worst possible locations
DRC's health ministry, which on Sunday tweeted a photo of smiling health workers reopening the Butembo treatment centre, says 853 Ebola cases have been confirmed in this outbreak, including 578 deaths.
Another Ebola treatment centre in Katwa was attacked late last month, with one person killed. Doctors Without Borders also has suspended its operations there.
For those trying to contain the outbreak, the attacks are occurring in the worst possible locations. Butembo and Katwa made up more than 86 percent of new confirmed cases over the past three weeks, DRC's health ministry said on Monday.
This outbreak, declared in August, is second to the one in West Africa that killed more than 11,300 people during 2014-2016.