The armed assailants attacked the centre which is run by French charity Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday. The identity and motive of the attackers are unknown but it comes two days after a mob set fire to another centre which resulted in the death of one man. According to the country’s health ministry, none of the 40 patients within the centre were hurt but four of the patients did flee during in what MSF termed as a “deplorable” attack on the centre in Butembo.
In a statement, MSF said: “This attack has not only put the lives of Ebola patients and their families in danger, but also those of MSF and Ministry of Health staff.
“Our efforts are currently focused on the immediate safety of both staff and patients.”
On Sunday, assailants set fire to a treatment centre in the city of Katwa in the Ebola-ravaged eastern region of the country.
Currently locked in a Civil War, the country has been hit by its worst-ever Ebola outbreak which has killed 540 people according to MSF.
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In just six months since the outbreak began, there have been 870 confirmed patients as the epidemic has spread to 19 areas in the country.
Speaking following the attack in Katwa on Sunday, Emmanuel Massart, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator in the city said: “This attack was traumatic for patients, their relatives and staff present inside the centre at the time.
“It has also crippled our ability to respond to what is now the epicentre of the outbreak.”
Although the motive for both attacks is unknown, there is a great deal of mistrust within the community towards the charity.
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MSF’s General Doctor, Meinie Nicola also added: “Although the reasons behind the attack are unclear and such violence is unacceptable, what we know is that organisations involved in the Ebola response – MSF included – have failed to gain the trust of a significant part of the population.
“All those involved in this response must change their approach and truly engage with the grievances and fears of the communities.”
Despite some success in stopping the virus in Mangina and Beni, MSF is struggling to keep the epidemic under control.
First discovered in Congo in 1976, it is the second deadliest haemorrhagic fever since its discovery in the country.