Armed men attacked an Ebola treatment centre in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) again on Saturday, killing a policeman and wounding a health worker, the authorities said. The facility, located at Butembo in the troubled province of North Kivu, only reopened last Saturday after an attack by gunmen the previous Wednesday forced its closure.
“Shooting started at about six in the morning (0400 GMT) and resumed 30 minutes later with resistance from the army and the police,” Butembo mayor Sylvain Kanyamanda Mbusa told AFP.
The health worker was shot and was being treated in hospital.
“The army and the police caught one of the attackers,” he said, hoping it would help understand the motive for the raid which came just a few hours before World Health Organization Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was to visit the centre.
It was the third attack on the centre, said the mayor of the city of a million people. He branded the attackers “terrorists” who wanted to “kill the sick” and said the captured attacker was a member of the Mai-Mai rebel group.
Efforts to curb the DR Congo’s worst Ebola outbreak are stumbling, medical charity MSF warned Thursday, blaming the role of the security forces in the response and their “toxic” relations with local communities
It highlighted that more than 40% of deaths are occurring in communities rather than in Ebola treatment centres. Repairs were also set to begin on another North Kivu treatment centre, in Katwa, that was set ablaze on the night of 24 February.
Both centres had been jointly run by the health ministry and Doctors without Borders (MSF), but after the first attacks, the aid agency announced it was suspending its activities in both facilities.
The Butembo centre is now run by the health ministry in collaboration with the WHO and the UN children’s organisation Unicef.
The deadly viral disease broke out in North Kivu last August and spread to neighbouring Ituri province.
It has claimed 561 lives out of 894 recorded cases, according to the latest ministry figures. Efforts to contain the epidemic, the 10th in the country’s history, have been hampered by poor security in the highly unstable region.