Ebola Doctors in the Congo Threaten Strike After a Health Worker Was Killed


Now to the Democratic Republic of Congo where for months health workers have been struggling to contain any bull outbreak. Despite the fact that more than one hundred thousand people have been vaccinated. There's been a surge of new cases and more than thirteen hundred people have been infected so far the biggest obstacle to stopping the outbreak armed groups who keep attacking health workers in just the last few days. They were two assaults here to tell us. More is NPR's and read is in and welcome to the studio. Hi outy. Give us the latest on these attacks. I well the first one was on Friday afternoon. It was at a local hospital in a city called Mutombo. That's one of the current epicenters of the outbreak and about twenty members of one of the local Ebola response teams were having a meeting in witnesses say two gunmen Burstein, they took everyone's cell phones and other they started shooting injured two people and they killed the team leader. His name was. Dr Richard Valerie was Oko. He was an epidemiologist from Cameron had been deployed by the World Health Organization to help fight Ebola. And then just a few hours later there was an attack on another local command center, this one was at a hospital in a nearby. Suburb called Koch wa it's one of the worst hot spots in the outbreak zone. And this one was around three AM Saturday morning. Four people tried to set fire to that command center. Police fought them off they killed one assailant, and they captured the rest are these centers being targeted on purpose in if so how come it seems so yes, and it's not clear exactly who was behind each of these attacks. But I spoke with Dr Michel Yow who is leading the response for the World Health Organization, and he says witnesses in that first attack told him that the gunmen were shouting Ebola doesn't exist. You're just here to make money off of us and it fits into a larger problem of mistrust in the local population. There have been years of armed. Conflict in this part of Congo and people feel victimized by the government. So they don't trust authorities and by extension health workers. What does this mean for the effort to try and contain the outbreak? Well, there's a lot of concern because this is just the latest in a series of violent incidents that directly target health workers since February two Ebola treatment centers have been attacked Dr Masuku the doctor who was killed on Friday. He had only arrived four weeks ago. And he apparently told colleagues that he was really worried he's left behind a wife and four children in Cameroon. And so each time there's been an attack the health workers need to regroup. They slow down their efforts to vaccinate people who've been exposed, and then you see the effect in the outbreak. It gets worse. Basically more people start to get sick. And you know to give you an example in February just before these attacks on the bullet treatment centers started. They were saying about thirty new cases a week. And then this month, we're already up. To seventy new cases every week even as high as one hundred new cases every week. If this violence continues is there a chance at the outbreak could grow into a catastrophe similar to what we saw in twenty fourteen in some west African countries there are some really important differences, first of all the WHO and the government have been on this from the beginning. There's also a vaccine now which has been a game changer as you noted they've managed to get more than one hundred thousand people to take it and the evidence is highly effective. So there are still reasons to be hopeful despite this latest

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