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20.04.2019 Congo

Ebola worker killed at hospital in eastern DR Congo

AFP
Africa A bullet-shattered window at an Ebola treatment centre in Butembo after it came under attack on March 9. A policeman was killed and a health worker wounded.  By JOHN WESSELS (AFP)
APR 20, 2019 CONGO
A bullet-shattered window at an Ebola treatment centre in Butembo after it came under attack on March 9. A policeman was killed and a health worker wounded. By JOHN WESSELS (AFP)

A health worker fighting an Ebola outbreak in DR Congo was killed Friday in an attack on a hospital in the eastern city of Butembo, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The attack is the latest in a string of assaults on teams grappling with a near nine-month-old Ebola outbreak that has claimed almost 850 lives.

"The @WHO family lost a dear colleague in the hospital attack in Butembo, #DRC, today," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet.

"My colleagues and I are grieving over the loss of this courageous colleague who was saving lives to end #Ebola. We are outraged by the attack. Health workers are #NotATarget."

Police and local officials said the casualty was a Cameroonian doctor who was a member of an anti-Ebola team.

"The attack took place at the University Clinics Hospital of Butembo," said the city's mayor, Sylvain Kanyamanda.

"The (Ebola) response team was in a meeting. Armed Mai-Mai (militiamen) arrived and fired on people. A doctor, an epidemiologist, was shot and taken to the emergency room. His colleagues were injured. The doctor, a Cameroonian, later died," Kanyamanda said.

The DR Congo declared a tenth outbreak of Ebola in 40 years last August in northeastern North Kivu province before the virus spread into the neighbouring Ituri region.

The epicentre of the outbreak was first located in the rural area of Mangina, but then switched to the town of Beni.

Local organisations say the number of Ebola deaths is rising.

An updated toll by the health ministry, issued on Wednesday, said there had been 843 deaths.

WHO data from April 9 put the number of confirmed or probable cases at 1,186, of which 751 had been fatal.

Factfile on Ebola.  By John Saeki/Adrian Leung (AFP) Factfile on Ebola. By John Saeki/Adrian Leung (AFP)

The outbreak is the second deadliest on record, after the epidemic that struck West Africa in 2014-16, which killed more than 11,300 people.

Efforts to roll back the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever in DRC have been hampered by fighting but also by resistance within communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.

On March 9, an attack on a treatment centre at Butembo left a policeman dead and a health worker wounded. It was the third attack on that centre.

On February 24, a treatment centre in Katwa was set ablaze.

On April 12, the WHO's Emergency Committee, in a new review of the outbreak, determined that the situation in DR Congo did not constitute a "public health emergency of international concern," a status that initiates a major global response.

Neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, worried by the outbreak, have started vaccinating health workers. More than 102,000 people have received a new Ebola vaccine in the DRC.

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