Declaration of February 28, 2019
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has put its medical activities on stand-by at the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in Butembo and Katwa in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo, following an attack on an Ebola treatment center in Butembo city during the night of February 27.
Unidentified assailants set fire to some of the facilities and vehicles of the complex. The flames were contained, but the teams were forced to immediately cease patient care. At the time of the attack, there were 57 patients admitted to the treatment center, which worked alongside the Ministry of Health; 15 of the patients were confirmed to have Ebola.
This incident occurs only a few days after another treatment facility against Ebola, also backed by MSF teams in the neighboring district of Katwa, was attacked on February 24 – also forcing it to be suspended. MSF evacuated its staff from the area for their safety, pending a thorough analysis of the risks associated with continuing medical care.
"We are extremely saddened by these attacks at our medical facilities. Not only did they endanger the lives of our employees, they also put at risk the most vulnerable people at the center of our response: patients, "said MSF emergency team manager Hugues Robert.
"In light of these two violent incidents, we have no choice but to suspend our activities until further notice. As medical responders, it is very painful to have to leave patients, their families and other members of the community at such a critical time in responding to Ebola. "
No team or patients were harmed, but both attacks were traumatic for patients, their relatives and employees who were inside the centers at the time. The caretaker of a patient died during the attack on the center in Katwa, supposedly when he tried to escape.
Almost seven months after the start of the current outbreak of Ebola in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, there were 879 confirmed cases of Ebola and 553 people died.
In addition to the treatment centers in Butembo and Katwa, MSF also manages Ebola-related activities in the cities of Kayna and Lubéru in North Kivu and manages two Ebola isolation units in Ituri province in the cities of Bwanasura and Bunia. In the city of Goma, MSF has supported emergency preparedness by strengthening the surveillance system and ensuring adequate capacity to isolate suspected cases.