Deadly militia attacks could see resurgence of the DRC’s Ebola epidemic

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International organisations have warned of a potential resurgence of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after deadly militia attacks on health centres forced aid groups to suspend operations and withdraw staff from the epidemic’s last strongholds. Reuters Health reports that Mai Mai militia fighters killed four people and injured several others at two Ebola centers on Thursday of last week in the worst yet of violence hampering efforts to tame the outbreak in eastern DRC.

The world’s second biggest Ebola epidemic on record has killed over 2,200 people since mid-2018, but new infections slowed in recent months. “Ebola was retreating and now it is likely to resurge,” World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier is quoted in the report as saying. WHO has relocated 173 staff while the UN children’s agency UNICEF has evacuated 20 staff.

After recent fatal raids on health centres in Mangina and Byakoto, a screening centre was also attacked overnight in the town of Oicha, Congolese health authorities said. Mai Mai fighters and local residents have attacked health facilities sometimes because they believe Ebola does not exist and in other cases because of resentment that they have not benefited from the influx of donor funding.

The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) halted operations in the towns of Mangina, Beni and Butembo. “We’ve had to put all Ebola activities on hold in high-risk areas,” said Corrie Butler, spokesperson for the IFRC in Congo, saying the attacks had been in areas with the most Ebola cases.

Reuters Health report

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