Congo Ebola responders end strike over unpaid salaries

Health workers responding to an Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo ended their three-day strike over unpaid wages on Monday
Health workers responding to an Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo ended their three-day strike over unpaid wages on Monday
Image: Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

Health workers responding to an Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo ended their three-day strike over unpaid wages on Monday, the World Health Organization and local authorities said.

The Ebola virus in western Congo has spread steadily into remote villages across Equateur province since the first case was identified on June 1, infecting 88 people and killing 36.

On Saturday, local laboratory technicians, case management teams and contact tracers blocked access to the Ebola testing laboratory in the city of Mbandaka, the provincial capital, said Mory Keita, the WHO's Ebola incident manager.

They were protesting against the health ministry's recent publication of their pay scales, which they thought were too low, and the government's failure to pay them since the start of the new epidemic, Keita said.

The provincial health minister, Bruno Efoloko, said the governor had concluded negotiations with the striking workers late on Monday afternoon.

"The negotiations were successful. The laboratory is now operational," Efoloko told Reuters, adding that some lab technicians had returned to work after the talks.

"The national ministry of health promises to examine their claims," Efoloko said. "We will continue to educate others for an effective resumption of activities."

In June, Congo celebrated the end of a separate Ebola outbreak in the east of the country, the second-worst on record, which killed more than 2,200 people over two years.

The virus strain responsible for the more recent outbreak in Equateur is genetically distinct from the strain in the previous outbreak, and is believed to have originated in an animal source, the WHO has said.

Congo's health system has been crippled by decades of mismanagement, underfunding and war. Some health workers responding to the coronavirus outbreak cut back their services in July to protest over unpaid bonuses. 

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