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Ebola Responders Considering Strike If More Effective Protection Measures Not Implemented

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The health workers at the frontlines of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to face the threat of violence from armed militiamen.

After repeated attacks that injured their colleagues, the doctors and nurses in affected areas in eastern Congo warned that they will go on strike if the government fails to protect them.

Health Workers March To Demand Protection

On Wednesday, April 25, dozens of Congolese health workers marched in Butembo, the biggest city affected by the outbreak, to demand that the authorities add security measures to guarantee their and their patients' safety.

"If our security is not guaranteed, we will go on strike from the first week of May," said Dr. Kalima Nzanzu in a memo addressed to Butembo Mayor Sylvain Kanyamanda.

The Ebola outbreak in Congo is the second worst in the history of the world. Around 1,340 probably and confirmed cases have been reported since August 2018. Over 800 people have died from the disease.

While there have been aggressive efforts from local and international health workers to contain the outbreak, armed conflict in the region and misinformation about the disease have hampered any progress. Dozens of militia are fighting against each other for land, ethnicity, and mineral resources in eastern Congo. Meanwhile, among the public, rumors are spreading that Ebola is a scam ran by foreigners to make money off of the local population.

Kanyamada responded to the protesters, saying that he understands the frustration of the health workers and assured that the government is determined to protect them.

Militiamen Target Ebola Centers

The protest took place a week after armed militiamen attacked a hospital in Butembo, killing an epidemiologist from the World Health Organization and wounding two others.

"It's going from bad to worse right now," stated Jean-Philippe Marcoux, country director of Mercy Corps for DRC. "This is symptomatic of the deficiencies of the response — in terms of community engagement and communication."

The military prosecutor's office in North Kivu reported that the authorities have captured the ringleader of the attack and a dozen other suspects. They identified the Patriotic Union for the Liberation of Congo, an armed group, to be responsible for the attack.

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