BUTEMBO, CONGO - Medics facing suspicion and hostility as they fight an Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo fear their job might become even riskier after one of their vehicles was involved in a fatal crash.
The accident, in the town of Butembo, resulted in the death of the motorbike-taxi rider, sparking an angry response from his fellow riders, said a doctor at the town’s hospital, Chrisostome Shako.
“A jeep used in the operation against Ebola accidentally hit the motorbike rider, who was killed. His colleagues threw rocks at the hospital when we were taking the body to the morgue,” he told AFP.
The outpouring of fury led to all shops and commercial activity in the town grinding to a halt. Police said they deployed mixed patrols with soldiers to restore calm.
Shako said he feared the motorbike-taxi riders might start targeting the Ebola medics, undermining their ability to respond to the outbreak.
The Ebola epidemic in the Nord-Kivu and Ituri provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo is the second-deadliest on record, with more than 1,000 deaths registered since August last year.
The medics’ work has already been hampered since the weekend by an uptick in insecurity that has singled out the medical teams.
Efforts to roll back the outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever have also been slowed by resistance within communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.
DR Congo’s health minister, Oly Ilunga, has warned that each time the teams are prevented doing their job there is a spike in the number of new Ebola cases and deaths.
The World Health Organization had initially voiced hope it would be able to contain the outbreak, thanks in part to a new vaccine.
But in recent weeks senior WHO officials have conceded that insecurity, scarce financial resources and local politicians turning people against health workers had seriously undermined the containment effort.