Ebola responders in DR Congo on ‘lockdown’: WHO

Without full access to Ebola-affected areas, 'we cede ground to the virus,' says World Health Organization head

James Tasamba   | 26.11.2019
Ebola responders in DR Congo on ‘lockdown’: WHO

KIGALI, Rwanda

Ebola responders are on lockdown in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following deadly protests, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

“Ebola responders in Beni, DRC are on lockdown amidst gunfire, riots and civil strife,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter.

More than 3,100 Ebola cases have been confirmed since the outbreak was declared in August 2018, and more than 2,100 deaths recorded.

But insecurity in the region have hampered efforts to contain the outbreak.

“Each day that we don’t have full access to all Ebola-affected areas in DRC we cede ground to the virus, prolonging the outbreak. This is a tragedy because it will only add to the suffering of already overburdened communities,” said Tedros.

“But [we are] still trying to protect people at risk of contracting the virus. Teams are arranging contact follow-up by phone and remotely guiding community health workers in places we can’t reach.”

Angry residents in the DRC stormed UN facilities Monday to protest a recent attack by a Ugandan rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), in which eight people were killed and nine kidnapped in the Masiani district of the eastern North Kivu province’s Beni area.

Protesters looted a UN base in the northeastern border city.

The protesters accuse the UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) and Congolese forces of “inaction” with some demanding the UN mission leave the country.

MONUSCO on Monday called on all political, religious and media actors to support a return to calm, necessary to the fight against the ADF and the essential continuity of the Ebola response.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leila Zerrougui, on Monday attended an emergency meeting chaired by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

Zerrougui stressed in tweets posted by MONUSCO, that she understood the anger and frustration of the population after further deadly attacks by the ADF but attacking the mission's facilities and those of the local authorities only weakened the fight of the Congolese army against the ADF.

Tshisekedi, after the meeting decided to allow joint operations between Congolese and UN forces in Beni following the protests that also extended to Goma.

The UN mission had in recent days argued that it could not participate in Congolese military operations without being invited, and it could not conduct operations unilaterally in a region where Congo’s military is already active.

After violent protests Monday in Beni, tensions remain high in Butembo, also in north Kivu province.

Several shops remained closed and barricades were erected on roads Tuesday as the demand for the departure of UN peacekeeping force gained momentum.

More than 60 civilians are reported to have been killed in 10 days in Beni by the ADF, according to local civil society group.

Over the past five years, rebels have reportedly killed more than 1,500 people in the area, according to Human Rights Watch report released earlier this year.

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