Health officials in the Congo have expressed their concern about the violent attacks on health workers responding to recent Ebola cases in the country.

Oly Ilunga Kalenga, health minister for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the Congolese government is in a struggle to prevent the further spread of the virus across the region.

However, the sudden increase in violence against health workers and facilities is severely delaying their emergency response efforts.

Kalenga, who is in Geneva, Switzerland for the World Health Assembly this week, said the real emergency that they are facing right now is regarding security.

"Each time there is an attack on a health facility or medical personnel, the response to the epidemic is put on hold and we lose precious time to stop the virus from spreading further," the Congolese health minister said.

Challenge Of Stopping The Ebola Outbreak

Health authorities around have been concerned about having another pandemic only three years after the last one in West Africa. This previous Ebola outbreak killed more than 11,000 people across the region between 2014 and 2016 alone.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said they are in a fight against one of the most dangerous viruses in one the most dangerous places in the world. He described the Ebola outbreak as one of the most complex health emergencies they have ever dealt with.

Ghebreyesus added that unless everyone unites to end the disease, there is a very real risk that it will only become "more widespread, more expensive, and more aggressive."

Violence In The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The DRC has been dealing with intercommunal violence over the past few decades. Several armed groups have formed all over the country's eastern region, which the Congolese government has neglected for years.

The chaos caused by these local armed forces has forced hundreds of thousands of people in the DRC, as well as nearly a million refugees from nearby countries, to be displaced, according to the United Nations.

Even health workers trying to stem the spread of the outbreak are not safe from violent attacks. The UN said there have already been 130 assaults on medical facilities since the start of this year. Four people have died, while 38 were left injured in these attacks.

Aside from these violent attacks, health workers also have to contend with a growing distrust of health agencies and organizations among local communities.

In a study featured in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers found that more than 30 percent of people think that the Ebola virus was maliciously created either for the financial benefit of local elites, or to sabotage stabilization efforts in the region.

Kalenga downplayed the notion that the violent attacks on health workers were politically motivated. He called the local armed groups as "spoilers" who wish to hinder the Congolese government's response to the outbreak.

While he does not believe that there is a clear agenda behind the attacks, the health minister said security agencies in the country are already studying the situation.

To help curtain assaults on Ebola responders, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has asked world governments not to publicly disclose the amount of funding that has been allocated for outbreak relief.

Harriett Baldwin, British minister of state for Africa, revealed that the DRC had requested for the details of the funding not to be made public over concerns that it will place a target on the Ebola responders.

The United Kingdom has been one of the leading contributors to the Ebola response in the region. However, Baldwin said the Congolese government warned them about the instability affected areas, with armed groups potentially being drawn to the amount of money flowing into the country.

This is the reason why the DRC does not want to mention anything about funding so as not to endanger the lives of Ebola responders.

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