GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – A mob in eastern Congo killed an Ebola health worker and looted a clinic, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, underscoring a breakdown in public trust that is hampering efforts to contain the deadly virus.
Attacks on treatment centers by armed groups and mistrust among residents who view the disease as a conspiracy have become major impediments to containing Democratic Republic of Congo’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak.
The hemorrhagic fever has so far killed 1,281 people, according to the latest ministry figures, and shows no signs of slowing its spread, with dozens of new cases a week.
The ministry said that on Saturday residents of the village of Vusahiro, in the Mabalako district, “rose up and attacked the local Ebola response team, made up of village residents who were trained to carry out certain response activities”.
A hygienist from the infection prevention and control team died of his injuries when he was transferred to hospital, it said.
Responders, healthcare workers, and community members are increasingly subjected to threats from armed groups in hotspots such as Katwa and Butembo, the World Health Organization says, complicating efforts to contain Ebola.
U.N. officials say that stopping targeted attacks on health workers requires untangling deep-rooted political problems in eastern Congo. Dialogue has led to a recent reduction in large-scale attacks on health workers, WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.
Still, an uphill battle remains. Between January and early May, there were 42 attacks on health facilities, with 85 workers either injured or killed, according to WHO figures from May 3.
Health workers have been attacked six times in the last eight days, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the closing session of the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva on Tuesday.
“These attacks demonstrate that the ongoing Ebola outbreak is more than a health crisis,” he said. “Ending it takes a coordinated and strengthened effort across the U.N. system…with strong leadership from the government.”
(Reporting by Fiston Mahamba in Goma, additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Tim Cocks and Edward McAllister; Editing by Mark Heinrich)