Rebel militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have killed four health workers fighting the Ebola outbreak in the country. Five others were injured in the Thursday morning attack, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported.
“We are heartbroken that people have died in the line of duty as they worked to save others,” said DrTedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general. “The world has lost brave professionals.”
Casualties include a member of a vaccination team, two drivers, local officials, a UN staff member and a police officer.
The campaign against the epidemic has shown signs of progress in recent months. In the past week, seven cases of Ebola were recorded, down from a peak of more than 120 a week in April 2019, health officials said.
“Ebola was retreating. These attacks will give it force again, and more people will die as a consequence,” said Tedros.
The outbreak of the virus has killed 2,198 people in North and South Kivu and Ituri provinces since August 01,2018, according to the latest official figures.
It is the second deadliest outbreak ever. The worst struck west Africa between 2014 and 2016, claiming more than 11,300 lives.
Insecurity has complicated efforts to combat the epidemic in DRC from the outset, as has resistance within communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.
More than 300 attacks on Ebola health workers have been recorded in 2019, leaving six dead and 70 wounded, some of them patients.
Earlier this week, Ebola responders were told not to leave secure bases or their homes after angry residents stormed a UN peacekeepers’ camp in protest at the fatal militia attacks on civilians, the WHO said.
Government authority in eastern DRC is weak, with significant territory controlled by armed groups, especially a militia called the Allied Democratic Forces.
The Congolese army began an offensive against the ADF on October 30, vowing to wipe out armed groups in the east of the country.
DRC suffers deep poverty and is currently experiencing the world’s biggest measles epidemic.More than 5,000 people, including 4,500 children under the age of five, have died from the disease in DRC so far this year. (Source: The Guardian)