Guinea arrests six in fatal attack on Ebola team

Following a brutal attack 3 days ago on a team working to raise public awareness about Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Guinea, officials have arrested six people in connection with the incident, the first of its kind to result in fatalities.

The attack killed eight people and occurred in Womey, in southern Guinea not far from the border with Liberia, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. Deaths included government officials, health officials, a pastor, and three radio journalists who were covering the public awareness campaign, according to the report. One person, the son of one of the government officials, escaped during the attack.

The rapidly expanding outbreak, which began in March, is West Africa's first experience with EVD, and has been met with a mixture of suspicion that outsiders brought the disease to the region and disbelief that the disease exists. Also, the countries have fragile government infrastructures following years of civil war, and government messaging about the disease has been met with general mistrust.

Earlier in the outbreak, attacks on treatment centers and labs prompted the temporary retreat of outbreak responders. During yesterday's United Nations (UN) emergency Security Council meeting on Ebola, Jackson Niamah, a health worker from Doctors without Borders (MSF), addressed the group via a live video link and said, "There has been so much denial, even now."

Residents of Womey threw stones at the team, with some of the EVD awareness group able to flee to the nearby city of Nzerekore, while nine tried to find safety in Womey, CNN reported.

Guinea's government has strongly condemned the attacks and had vowed to bring those involved to justice.

Sierra Leone begins lockdown

In Sierra Leone today, the first day of a 3-day curfew began, a measure announced earlier this month by the government in an effort to help curb the disease and assist with contact-tracing efforts.

Yesterday a representative from the country told the UN Security Council, "An extraordinary disease calls for extraordinary steps."

UN team bound for Liberia

Meanwhile, a joint disaster team from the UN is headed to Liberia to assess the response status, following yesterday's Security Council adoption of an emergency health mission to battle the outbreak, according to a statement today from the group. The 15-member group includes experts from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the European Union, and Liberia's government.

Yesterday the Security Council concluded that the outbreak posed a threat to peace and security, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced the establishment of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). The mission is the first in UN history to address a public health threat.

Other response updates

In other developments:

  • The British government has donated 700 treatment beds to Sierra Leone, with 200 of them currently in the pipeline and 500 more to be delivered in the coming months, the BBC reported today.
  • The first of 13 shipments containing a field hospital designed for treating sick healthcare workers is expected to arrive in Liberia today, Nancy Lindborg, assistant ambassador for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said on Sep 17 at a Senate hearing on the outbreak.
  • A French woman serving with MSF in Liberia has arrived in France and is being treated at a Paris hospital, where she is receiving experimental therapeutics, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. It's not clear which treatment the woman received, but France's health ministry has authorized the import and use of three experimental drugs: favipiravir from Japan, ZMapp from the United States, and TKM-100-802 from Canada, according to the report.

See also:

Sep 19 AP story

Sep 19 CNN story

Sep 19 UN press release

Sep 19 BBC story

Sep 19 AFP story

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