Sunday, 26 May, 2019

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

Doctors Without Borders hampered by violence in responding to Ebola in Congo MSF condemns 'militarised' response to Ebola outbreak
Anna Jefferson | 10 March, 2019, 05:24

The battle against Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo is failing because ordinary people do not trust health workers and an overly militarised response is alienating patients and families, the medical charity MSF said.

It highlighted that more than 40% of deaths are occurring in communities rather than in Ebola treatment centres.

"We are not sure that we (the epidemic) bring to an end, if we continue with business as usual", said MSF President Joanne Liu on Thursday in Geneva.

The outbreak, which started, last year, has killed more than 500 people in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Security in eastern DRC, a region rampant with rebel fighters, has complicated the response.

MSF recently suspended its operations in the epicentre of the outbreak - in Katwa and Butembo in North Kivu province - following violent attacks on Ebola treatment centres.

Liu tells VOA the government is painting the Ebola epidemic as a security emergency. "The police and the army are not involved in Ebola response activities and their role has never been to enforce sanitary measures".

Given numerous security incidents, the ministry said it asked the country's interior ministry to ensure the security of goods, services, and people in the area.

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The use of security forces in the area is also complicating efforts, she said.

"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.

While almost half of all deaths in the outbreak are happening away from treatment centres, another alarm bell is the fact that more than one-third of new cases are occurring outside of known transmission chains. "That means we have not reached them and they have not sought our care".

More than 900 people have contracted Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo since August 2018, according to CIDRAP News.

"The signs are that Ebola is not under control because within seven months all the indicators are not normal". "It shows how the response has failed to listen and act on the needs of those most affected".

Many on the ground were also frustrated, she said, to see vaccines given only to a small circle of people believed to have had direct or indirect contact with the sick. "Ebola is the common enemy"..."

MSF physicians say they have more success getting villagers to accept vaccinations when government troops are not present, but unfortunately their lives could be at risk from armed insurgents if they do not travel with military protection.

The second largest Ebola outbreak in history is now taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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