KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 27 – Villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo killed a health worker engaged in the fight against a major Ebola outbreak and looted a treatment centre, according to an official report seen Monday by AFP.
“Part of the population of Vusahiro village, in the health sector of Mabalako (North Kivu province), rose up and attacked the local team fighting back against Ebola,” said the daily health ministry bulletin dated Sunday. It said the incident happened on Saturday.
“A hygiene agent in the team for the prevention and control of infections died of his injuries during his transfer to the hospital,” health authorities said in the bulletin.
“The health centre in Vusahiro was trashed and looted and three village houses were burned down,” the bulletin added.
In a separate incident, the triage centre at Valumba in the Butembo health sector, was vandalised overnight Saturday to Sunday, the report said.
The Ebola outbreak declared in eastern DR Congo last August has killed more than 1,200 people in two provinces — Ituri and North Kivu — and new cases have surged in recent weeks.
Efforts to tackle the crisis have been hampered both by militia attacks on treatment centres, in which some staff have been killed, and by the hostility of some local people to the medical teams.
Since the outbreak began, attacks on health centres have killed four people and wounded dozens more, including patients, according to a tally released by the health ministry last Friday.
Militia attacks, local hostility
North Kivu has suffered from massacres blamed mainly on the Ugandan Islamist rebels of Alliance of Democratic Forces, according to Godefroid Ka Mana, an academic expert with the Pole Institute think tank in provincial capital Goma.
In April, a Cameroonian doctor working for the World Health Organization was murdered while taking part in a meeting at a university teaching hospital.
Working with the international medics are local health teams formed after DR Congo’s 10th outbreak of the highly contagious and often fatal viral disease. They are made up of villagers trained in measures to battle Ebola.
But some locals are hostile to the prevention protocols enforced by international teams, such as the special measures imposed for the burial of Ebola victims.
These measures, designed to prevent loved ones being infected, rule out the traditional wakes and funerals.
The WHO has accused local politicians of turning people against the health workers.
In the meantime, the deaths continue. Since the outbreak started, “the cumulative number of cases is 1,912, 1,818 confirmed and 94 probable,” the health ministry said Friday.
“In total, there were 1,277 deaths (1,183 confirmed and 94 probable) and 496 people healed,”