Ebola: Attack on ICRC Ebola ambulance in Congo wounds 3 volunteers


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A health worker sprays disinfectant on an ambulance in Nedowein, Liberia, July 15, 2015.

The attack on an ambulance transporting the body to a cemetery in North Kivu province’s Beni region is the latest disruption to efforts to control the current outbreak, which is believed to have killed 106 people since July.

Three International Committee of the Red Cross volunteers helping with the burial of an Ebola victim in eastern Congo were injured in an attack by villagers, health officials said on Wednesday.

This had prompted the ICRC to have suspended burials in the area.

The attack on an ambulance transporting the body to a cemetery in North Kivu province’s Beni region is the latest disruption to efforts to control the current outbreak, which is believed to have killed 106 people since July.

The WHO raised its assessment of the risk of the disease spreading within the region to “very high’’ after a case was confirmed near a lakeside border crossing point with Uganda.

Community resistance in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been one of the main problems facing healthcare workers, in addition to armed attacks by militia groups.

Serge Thierry, a Regional ICRC Representative, said that three local Red Cross volunteers were wounded, two seriously, in the attack by angry residents.

“Security measures were taken immediately. Burials are suspended until further notice,’’ he said, referring to ICRC activity in and around Butembo city in Beni region.

Proper burial of Ebola victims is critical to control the disease, which causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and is spread through direct contact with body fluids.

Robert Kahumula, a spokesman for the local Ebola response team, said the health workers “were wounded during an attack by young people, skeptical of the presence of Ebola in the region.”

The burial did not take place because the young people ambushed the response team and vandalised the ambulance that was transporting the body,” he said.

On Sept. 27, the WHO warned of a build-up of mistrust toward Ebola response efforts in certain communities in eastern Congo as a result of rumours, misinformation and a preference for traditional medical practices. 

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