Community fears grow as DR Congo Ebola death toll climbs
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.