Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Battle against Ebola being lost amid militarised response, MSF says

Doctors Without Borders hampered by violence in responding to Ebola in Congo MSF condemns 'militarised' response to Ebola outbreak
Celia Hoffman | 09 March, 2019, 16:03

There have been "30 different incidents and attacks against elements of the response" to the outbreak, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Congo's Ebola epidemic has killed almost 600 people, making it the second deadliest in the world.

"There is a lot of militarization of the Ebola response", she told reporters, according to Reuters.

Attempts by the authorities in DR Congo to force people to comply with Ebola control measures have proved counterproductive. "The communities are not the enemy".

Recent attacks on two treatment centers operated by Doctors Without Borders led the group to close them, and brought a scorching and highly unusual self-assessment by Dr. Liu."They hear constant advice to wash their hands, but nothing about the lack of soap and water", Dr. Liu said.

A spokeswoman for the DRC's health ministry said there was a "misunderstanding" about the role of security forces in dealing with the outbreak, however, and rejected the MSF's claims as a "gross exaggeration of the situation".

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

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"The police and the army are not involved in Ebola response activities and their role has never been to enforce sanitary measures", Jessica Ilunga said.

The Interior Ministry has been asked to guarantee security, as it is unacceptable for health officials to be threatened and attacked, or for the threat of violence to stop families burying their loved ones in a dignified and safe manner, she said.

During the briefing, MSF officials said that, since the first of the year, 40% of the newly reported cases are people who died from Ebola in their communities and that in the current epicenter of Katwa and Butembo, 43% of the patients confirmed with the virus in the past 3 weeks have no known links to other cases, a sign of undetected transmission chains, which is bad news.

MSF was insisting on security before it returned to its damaged facilities, she said. Local officials, unlike global staffers, did not have the privilege of being evacuated for security reasons, she said. 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.

The outbreak, which began last August, has killed at least 569 people, according to the World Health Organization.

Historically poor access to government-run health facilities has made care by traditional healers or self-medication the preferred health care option for many in the region, meaning a government-backed vaccination programme has often met local opposition.

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