DR Congo faces fresh Ebola risk after attacks on health centres

Members of UNICEF medical staff carry a dummy patient during an infection, prevention and control training in Juba, South Sudan.
Members of UNICEF medical staff carry a dummy patient during an infection, prevention and control training in Juba, South Sudan.
Image: ALEX MCBRIDE / AFP

Health authorities in DR Congo warned Friday of a "serious" new Ebola outbreak after a medical centre at the heart of the epidemic was attacked.

Aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) temporarily suspended treatment in two centres in Butembo city and Katwa district, both in the northeast of the country, after they were struck by arson attacks on Wednesday and Sunday.

Butembo is the epicentre of DR Congo's latest Ebola outbreak.

"Unidentified assailants set some of the compound's facilities and vehicles on fire," MSF said in a statement Thursday. "The blazes were contained, but the teams were obliged to immediately cease patient care."

No staff or patients were harmed, but the carer of one patient died in the attack in Katwa, MSF said.

"Both attacks were traumatic for patients, their relatives and staff who were inside the centres at the time," MSF said.

Last month, the agency suspended non-essential work in part of eastern DR Congo after gunmen abducted two of its local staff.

Attacks have "severely hampered" efforts to fight Ebola in recent days, the Congolese health ministry said this week.

"These two incidents have caused enormous disruption to activities," it said in a Friday update. "There may well be a serious new outbreak of cases in health zones in Katwa and Butembo in the coming days."

DR Congo is fighting its 10th Ebola epidemic in the eastern North Kivu and northwest Ituri provinces.

At least 490 people have died since last August, according to the health ministry.

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