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Ebola Clinics Attacked, Set Ablaze in Congo, Aid Workers Suspend Treatment

Doctors Without Borders has suspended medical activities after two of its facilities were torched by unidentified assailants in Eastern Congo.

Reuters

Updated:March 2, 2019, 8:49 AM IST
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Ebola Clinics Attacked, Set Ablaze in Congo, Aid Workers Suspend Treatment
Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Doctors Without Borders in Katwa, Congo (REUTERS)
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Dakar: Armed assailants attacked an Ebola treatment centre in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, setting off a fire and becoming embroiled in an extended gun battle with security forces, health officials said.

The identity and motive of the assailants were unclear.

Aid workers have faced mistrust in some areas as they work to contain an Ebola outbreak.

Dozens of armed militia also regularly attack civilians and security forces in eastern Congo's borderlands with Uganda and Rwanda, which has significantly hampered the response to the disease.

The health ministry said in a statement that 38 suspected Ebola patients and 12 confirmed cases were in the centre at the time of the attack. Four of the patients with confirmed cases fled and are being looked for, it said.

None of the patients who have been accounted for were injured, nor were any staff members, the ministry added.

French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, which runs the centre together with the ministry, condemned the "deplorable attack" and has suspended medical activities after two of its facilities were torched by unidentified assailants, the French charity said on Thursday.

"In light of these two violent incidents, we have no choice but to suspend our activities until further notice," MSF Emergency Desk Manager Hugues Robert said in a statement.

The attack in the city of Butembo was the second in Congo's Ebola-hit east this week. On Sunday unidentified assailants set fire to a treatment centre in the nearby town of Katwa, killing a nurse.

The current Ebola outbreak, first declared last August, is the second deadliest of the haemorrhagic fever since it was discovered in Congo in 1976. It is believed to have killed at least 553 people so far and infected over 300 more.

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