Violence, mistrust hamper efforts to combat Ebola in war zone

Friday, May 24, 2019
By Paul Martin

May 24, 2019

With the Democratic Republic of Congo facing its deadliest Ebola outbreak ever, the World Health Organization is warning the disease could spread to other African countries.

Making matters worse, the DRC’s quarter-century-old civil war is disrupting efforts to treat and contain Ebola. Violence and mistrust hamper efforts, as treatment centers are often attacked by militia groups, and people are either too scared or too suspicious to seek medical assistance here.

CBS News’ Debora Patta reports that the city of Beni has been in constant misery after 25 years of civil war.

Nine people were killed in one village by an armed militia group in the past week; then, soldiers took the victims to be tested for disease. It’s standard practice – Ebola is at its most contagious immediately after death.

But it doesn’t help win over an already suspicious community. “We don’t understand what this Ebola is; we can bury the bodies of our people ourselves,” said one villager.

A 3,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force is deployed in this area to protect villagers from the more than 30 armed militia groups that terrorize the community.

Outreach programs have been launched to educate people about Ebola, but mistrust runs deep, and many don’t believe Ebola is as big a problem as security.

USAID’s Dr. Bill Clemmer has worked in the DRC for more than two decades and helped with previous Ebola outbreaks.

“I have never been in a context where people throw rocks at our vaccination team, where they block roads, where they loot and pillage our health care facilities,” he said.

Beni has all the tools to fight the disease at its disposal, but they are useless if the sick and the dying hide in their homes refusing medical treatment.

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