DRC Should Treat Ebola As Epidemic Rather Than Security Issue - MSF President

Pearl Mccarthy
March 9, 2019

Seven months into the largest ever Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Ebola response is failing to bring the epidemic under control in a climate of deepening community mistrust, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said at a press conference in Geneva today.

"They see their relatives sprayed with chlorine and wrapped in plastic bags, buried without ceremony".

"We have seen outbreaks end in areas where the communities have become engaged, from health workers to religious leaders to youth groups", Jasarevic said. Makes it more hard to combat the epidemic, characterized in that in the Region of dozens of rebel groups are active.

"More than 40 percent of the deaths are right now happening in the community", outside of treatment centers, Liu said.

The epidemic is in a region of Congo prey to armed groups and violence where officials see threats through a security lens and use force.

'Using police to force people into complying with health measures is not only unethical it's totally counter-productive, ' she said.

"There is a lot of militarization of the Ebola response", she said.

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The outbreak, which began last August, has killed at least 569 people, according to the World Health Organization. "Communities are not the enemy".

A spokeswoman for the DRC's health ministry said there was a "misunderstanding" about the role of security forces in dealing with the outbreak, however, and rejected the MSF's claims as a "gross exaggeration of the situation".

Liu said there were still signs the outbreak - the second worst ever - was not being brought under control. It added that community members have demanded overall security improvements across the area and that a return to security is one of MSF's conditions for returning to Butembo and Katwa.

They "feel that Ebola has been used as an excuse for political manoeuvres", she said.

"Contrary to global agents, local health workers don't have the privilege of being evacuated when security conditions worsen". Furthermore, 43 percent of new patients over the past three weeks had no known connections to previous Ebola cases, making it hard to track the spread of the disease. "On the other hand, people with Ebola are dying in their communities, and do not trust the Ebola response enough to come forward".

"There is a big contradiction: On the one hand, the possibilities for a rapid and comprehensive for the fight against Ebola with the latest medical means, such as vaccination".

Health workers treating patients in the current epidemic have had far more tools at their disposal than they did back in 2014-2016 when more than 11,000 people died of Ebola in West Africa.

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