The efforts to contain the spread of the Ebola virus in the northern city of Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo received a setback as militia violence increased in the northern city of Beni. In a new development, the World Health Organization evacuated 16 health workers fighting the outbreak, following a rebel attack close to the camp they were staying at. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the organization, said on Saturday that he hoped they would be able to resume the operations soon. The attack could have been targeted at a UN peacekeeping forces camp in Beni, one of the areas worst affected by the Ebola epidemic.
Tedros said that when the members of the health workers’ team telephoned him to inform about the attack, he could hear heavy gunfire in the background. As some of the health workers were distressed after the attack, they were pulled back to Goma, a city close to Beni, so that they could rest for a few days. Some members of the team were ‘very courageous’, and were bent on remaining in Beni, he added. Friday’s violence was the last in a series of attacks in the region. A few days before 8 peacekeepers and 12 Congolese soldiers had lost their lives in an ambush, as they were trying to free the area of rebel presence.
The DRC Ministry of Health blamed the attack on Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan Islamist militant group operating in the area since the 1990s. The house where the WHO staff were staying was caught in the crossfire and it cannot be certain who fired the shots, as the UN peacekeepers, the soldiers of DRC and the militia were all involved in a fight. The situation is extremely distressing, as the Ebola resistance operation has been besieged because of the violence in the region. This is happening at a time when the Ebola epidemic is getting out of hand, and the experts fear that it will not be brought under control before months. The number of the affected is going up (358, as on Saturday) as is the death toll (213).