Armed militia members attacked clinics involved in the Ebola response in the hot spot Butembo today, killing a World Health Organization (WHO) outbreak responder and dealing another setback to efforts to recover from an earlier violence.
Meanwhile, in an ongoing gush of cases following response delays from the earlier attacks, 15 more infections were confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today, putting the outbreak total at 1,317.
According to a DRC media report, the unidentified attackers struck clinics at Catholic University of Graben, killing a foreign doctor, burning a truck carrying health workers, and causing other damage. The clinics house an Ebola triage response team.
WHO epidemiologist dead
As news of the attack filtered in, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said he was deeply concerned for patients, health ministry, WHO, and partner staff. On Twitter, he said, "This is a very sad day. We just learned of one fatality, as well as some people injured, in the attack on hospital in Butembo."
As more details came in, Tedros added that the man who died is a WHO epidemiologist deployed to the outbreak region, Dr Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung. "We grieve together with his family during this difficult time," he added.
In a statement today, the WHO said two other people were injured in the attack, but are believed to be in stable condition. It said the attack occurred during a coordination meeting being held at the hospital.
The WHO is assessing the security situation to ensure the safety of patients, health workers, and Ebola responders, Tedros said, adding that the WHO remains committed to supporting the health ministry and ending the outbreak as quickly as possible.
Also weighing in on the attack, DRC health minister Oly Ilunga, MD, said on Twitter that national and international health officers show courage and exceptional self-sacrifice to protect the DRC against Ebola, "sometimes at the cost of their lives."
Butembo's deputy mayor Patrick Kambale Tsiko said the militia group responsible for the attack wrongly believes foreigners brought Ebola virus to the DRC and have threatened that attacks will continue until the outsiders leave, the Associated Press (AP) reported today.
Apr 19 Radio Moto Butembo-Beni report
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Twitter feed
Apr 19 WHO statement
Oly Ilunga Twitter feed
WHO online Ebola dashboard
Apr 19 AP story