'Deepening Mistrust' Threatens Response To DRC Ebola Outbreak, MSF Warns

A Medecins Sans Frontieres facility destroyed by fire./REUTERS

A Medecins Sans Frontieres facility destroyed by fire./REUTERS

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

Two of her organization's treatment centers were attacked in the last two weeks, prompting the group to close them.

Congo's Ebola epidemic has killed almost 600 people, making it the second deadliest in the world. Unfortunately, as the first epidemic to hit the Congo, health aides are experiencing the violence overtaking the area that remains in conflict and makes response efforts even more complicated.

Liu warned that growing reliance on the security services to bring people to treatment centres was spurring hostility.

"The use of police and armed forces to compel people to comply with health measures against Ebola is leading to further alienation of the community and is counterproductive to controlling the epidemic", it added.

"Thirty-five percent of people are not known for the chain of transmission, which means we don't know where they got it from", the worldwide president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) charity said during a press conference on Thursday. "The communities are not the enemy". It said there's a misunderstanding about the role of law enforcement in the outbreak areas and that police and military are not involved in response activities and their role has never been to force compliance with sanitary measures.

A health worker dressed in a protective suit walks past burned structures after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Doctors Without Borders in the east Congolese town of Katwa, on February 25, 2019.

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.

Doctors Without Borders was insisting on security before it returned to its damaged facilities, Ilunga said.

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) held a press conference on Thursday explaining the long-term implications if the outbreak isn't brought under control.

"Contrary to global agents, local health workers don't have the privilege of being evacuated when security conditions worsen". Furthermore, 43 percent of new patients over the past three weeks had no known connections to previous Ebola cases, making it hard to track the spread of the disease.

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

The outbreak has killed at least 569 people and there are 907 confirmed and probable cases, according to the World Health Organization. A myriad of armed groups operate in eastern Congo, complicating efforts for the teams that go out into the communities to identify suspected cases of the disease.

Ebola responders are increasingly seen as the enemy, with more than 30 attacks and incidents against the Ebola response in the past month alone, she said.

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