Com­mu­nity fears grow as DR Congo Ebola death toll climbs

The Star Malaysia - - World -

GENEVA: Hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers are strug­gling to calm com­mu­nity fears in strife- torn east­ern Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, where 125 peo­ple have died of Ebola, and cases of the virus are spread­ing fast.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said on Fri­day that 200 cases of the deadly virus have been reg­is­tered in the out­break first de­tected on Aug 1, with 165 of them lab­o­ra­tory con­firmed and 35 con­sid­ered prob­a­ble.

The UN agency voiced con­cern over the swelling num­ber of cases in re­cent weeks, es­pe­cially in the town of Beni.

“Inse­cu­rity that has in­creased in the city is one of the rea­sons why we are see­ing these new cases com­ing up,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasare­vic told re­porters in Geneva.

The au­thor­i­ties in Beni have an­nounced mea­sures to pro­tect health work­ers af­ter a num­ber of in­ci­dents where re­sponse teams were as­saulted.

Fears and mis­con­cep­tions about the virus have led to wide­spread mis­trust and re­sis­tance to Ebola re­sponse work­ers, in­clud­ing those who come into com­mu­ni­ties wear­ing haz­mat suits to or­ches­trate buri­als.

A staff mem­ber of the UN mis­sion Monusco was among the lat­est vic­tims of the virus, the UN and health min­istry said on Fri­day.

The em­ployee was ex­posed in Beni where the health min­istry said it was con­cerned by a “sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of con­firmed cases”.

Two Red Cross vol­un­teers were also last week se­ri­ously in­jured when they were at­tacked dur­ing the burial of a sus­pected Ebola vic­tim.

The In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Red Cross and Red Cres­cent So­ci­eties (IFRC) said on Fri­day that it was do­ing ev­ery­thing it could to min­imise the risk to its vol­un­teers on the ground.

But IFRC Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral El­hadj As Sy stressed that the or­gan­i­sa­tion would never re­sort to us­ing armed es­corts in the ar­eas.

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