Sat, Mar 02, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Four Ebola patients missing after clinic attack in DR Congo

AP, DAKAR

Intruders attacked a treatment center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) for the second time in four days, leaving four Ebola patients missing and forcing the medical aid group to suspend its operations in the area.

The decision was made on Thursday after unknown assailants burned tents and other equipment at the treatment center in the eastern city of Butembo on Wednesday.

Assailants on Sunday set fire to another eastern DR Congo clinic that MSF operates in Katwa, killing one person and injuring another.

The organization said it would be temporarily suspending its efforts in both communities.

“In light of these two violent incidents, we have no choice but to suspend our activities until further notice,” said Hugues Robert, the group’s emergency desk manager. “As medical responders, it is very painful to have to leave behind patients, their families and other members of the community at such a critical time in the Ebola response.”

The latest violence has intensified fears that communities would continue to resist efforts to halt the nation’s 10th Ebola outbreak.

Health workers in eastern DR Congo have struggled to win the trust of residents amid attacks by armed groups vying for control of the mineral-rich region.

The DR Congo Ministry of Health said 32 of the 38 people being treated for suspected cases of Ebola fled during Wednesday’s attack, while eight of the 12 patients with confirmed cases remained in bed.

Patients arriving since the violence have been transferred temporarily to another treatment center.

Authorities are searching for the four missing patients confirmed to have Ebola who are highly infectious, the ministry said.

The humanitarian organization Mercy Corps has personnel in DR Congo’s North Kivu working on infection prevention and control.

Mercy Corps DR Congo director Jean-Philippe Marcoux called the clinic attacks “abhorrent,” but said he thinks “it would be too easy to blame them on insecurity and violent groups within communities.”

“Building community acceptance and securing trust has not been given the same weight as treatment, and we are continuing to see the consequences — suspicion abounds and case numbers rise,” he said.

The Ebola outbreak declared in August last year is the second-largest in terms of cases and deaths behind the one in West Africa that killed more than 11,300 people between 2014 and 2016.

Since the outbreak was declared in DR Congo’s North Kivu province, there have been 879 cases, of which 814 are confirmed, along with 488 confirmed Ebola deaths.

The WHO said in an update issued on Thursday that there was a “high proportion” of people with Ebola dying in the community, suggesting those with the lethal disease were avoiding health clinics.

The UN health agency also acknowledged that only a small number of new cases were previously known to authorities, meaning officials are unable to track where Ebola is spreading.

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