Photo: John Wessels / AFP / Getty Images
KINSHASA, Congo — Armed assailants again attacked an Ebola treatment center in the heart of eastern Congo’s deadly outbreak Saturday, with one police officer killed and health workers injured.
The early morning attack in Butembo came less than a week after the treatment center reopened after an attack last month, which forced aid group Doctors Without Borders to suspend its operations in the city. Security forces repelled Saturday’s attackers, one of whom was wounded, Butembo Mayor Sylvain Kanyamanda said.
The latest attack occurred hours before the World Health Organization director-general visited the center, which remains open. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus encouraged health workers to continue their fight against the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, which is spreading in a region compared to a war zone.
Dozens of armed groups are active in eastern Congo, though some have allowed health workers access to administer Ebola vaccines and track contacts of infected people after delicate negotiations.
In addition, some residents wary of outsiders after years of deadly rebel attacks have shown hostility to health workers in a region that is facing its first Ebola outbreak. Misunderstandings have been high, especially over the need to conduct safe burials, a highly sensitive issue. Ebola is spread via bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead.
On Thursday, the Doctors Without Borders president warned that Ebola containment efforts face a “climate of deepening community mistrust” seven months after the outbreak was declared, and the use of security forces complicates efforts. People are still reluctant to bring the sick to treatment centers, Joanne Liu said.
The health ministry, which tweeted a photo Sunday of smiling workers reopening the Butembo treatment center, says 853 Ebola cases have been confirmed since this outbreak was declared on Aug. 1, including 578 deaths.
Saleh Mwanamilongo is an Associated Press writer.