‘The world has never seen anything like this’: WHO chief on battling Ebola in a war zone

Friday, May 3, 2019
By Paul Martin

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks about fighting the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid attacks on health workers.

Amy Maxmen
02 MAY 2019

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is distraught. The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to worsen, and his front-line responders are under attack.

On 4 May, Ghebreyesus will attend the funeral of a 41-year old epidemiologist, Richard Mouzoko, who was shot dead in the city of Butembo on 19 April by men who reportedly shouted, “Ebola doesn’t exist!” Dozens of other Ebola responders have been assaulted in recent months in the northeastern DRC — a region that has been wracked by conflict for decades.

Since the outbreak started nine months ago, nearly 1,000 people have died from Ebola, and the rate of new infections is climbing. Nature spoke with Ghebreyesus shortly after he returned from a visit to Butembo. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

How was your visit with Ebola responders?
When we arrived, they were waiting for us in big numbers. I couldn’t stop thinking about Richard. I couldn’t even control my emotions. I was supposed to speak with them, but it was difficult to express how I felt. I just broke. I was thinking of his four kids, and looking at his friends there in the field, and thinking about the risk they were taking to save others.

How did they feel?
I could see how shocked they were. But at the same time, many said, “We are life-savers — we will not be intimidated by this attack. We will strengthen our resolve, and we will fight to finish Ebola.”

They could have said, “Take us away, we don’t want to risk our lives.” They didn’t say that. They said, “We will fight,” and I was so humbled and proud.

The Rest…HERE

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