Battle against Ebola in Congo being lost amid militarised response, MSF says

Joanne Liu MD

Doctors Without Borders hampered by violence in responding to Ebola in Congo

Efforts to control Congo's Ebola outbreak are being hampered by a "toxic" security situation including a series of attacks on treatment centres, medical chiefs working in the country have said. Dr. Nguyen also noted that when Ebola teams were accompanied by security forces, they were met with fear and distrust, especially of forced vaccination. "The Ebola response needs to become patient and community centred". One major problem MSF is now facing is the violent attacks happening to Ebola treatment centers.

Dr. Joanne Liu, a Canadian who is the worldwide president of Doctors Without Borders, said the outbreak would not be beaten unless the community trusted the authorities and were treated humanely.

Two of her organization's treatment centers were attacked in the last two weeks, prompting the group to close them.

In other developments, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) health ministry today reported seven new Ebola cases and responded to concerns about the response, which today included a visit from top World Health Organization (WHO) officials.

Attempts by the authorities in DR Congo to force people to comply with Ebola control measures have proved counterproductive.

"A range of issues have led to these tensions: from the massive deployment of financial resources focusing only on Ebola, in a neglected region suffering from conflict, violence and long-standing health needs; to elections being officially postponed due to the Ebola outbreak, exacerbating suspicions that Ebola is a political ploy", MSF said.

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When asked by the event's chairwoman and senior editor of The Economist Anne McElvoy if she looked at Twitter , she said , "No, sorry no".

Even after almost seven months, she says more than 40% of the deaths are still taking place in communities rather than at Ebola treatment centres.

The second largest Ebola outbreak in history is now taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The new illnesses lift the overall outbreak total to 913, which includes 848 confirmed and 65 probable cases.

The charity says the Ebola response must change - no more coercion to track and treat patients, and more choice for families on how to manage the disease.

She added there was a need for caution, however, with the "high mobility of the population" and the "spread of misinformation and rumours" about the medical response creating a risk of further infections.

MSF, which is active across DRC, is considering whether to resume activities in the two areas, but is intent on avoiding the use of security personnel on site or in rounding up patients, Liu said. "Patients want to own their disease", Liu said. At the end of February, an Ebola treatment center was partially destroyed in Butembo and its township, Katwa.

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