Arsonists Attack Ebola Clinics Again in DR Congo As Death Toll Reaches 548

An MSF centre that was burnt down.

GOMA – Four days after Ebola treatment centre in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) was torched by unknown assailants, a second clinic serving patients affected by the escalating Ebola outbreak was set alight on Wednesday, as concerns mount over the spread of the disease.

The deadly virus has so far claimed 548 lives since the outbreak in August last year.

The Ebola response team is faced with mistrust among some people living in Ebola affected areas who say Ebola is not real, undermining the delivery of health services.

The first arsonists’ attack on Sunday night forced Medicins Sans Frontieres who run the treatment centre to evacuate out of Katwa, the current epicentre of Ebola in east of the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also said aid workers continue to face mistrust in some areas, fuelled by false rumours about treatment and preference for traditional medicine.

Médecins Sans Frontières, which runs treatment centres in Katwa and Butembo that have been attacked, and is one of the agencies leading the wider Ebola response, said the response teams need to work with communities on the best way to respond to Ebola virus.

“Within the response, and ourselves, MSF, we need to think what more we could have done, because right now it’s clear that we do not have enough trust within the community,” said Pierre Van Heddegem, project coordinator of the Ebola response in Katwa.

“In some neighbourhoods, you have to go back to square one, sit down, listen to people and not impose our views of how the response should be organised,” said Van Heddegem.

On Sunday night, assailants threw stones at the centre before setting parts of the structure on fire.

This week, the World Health Organization’s officials described the outbreak as unprecedented. WHO said there has never been an Ebola outbreak amid the current conditions in DR Congo, with such a highly mobile population and with rebels attacking from all sides.

Most of the attacks in recent years have been attributed to the Allied Democratic Front (ADF), an Islamist group of Ugandans that have been active in DR Congo for more than two decades.

Over a thousand people have been massacred in the area since 2014 by armed fighters and more than 230 last year, according to US-based Human Rights Watch.

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