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DRC: Violent attacks continue to hinder response to Ebola outbreak

24 Oct 2018
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Credit: OCHA/E.Sabbagh

Recent insecurity in several areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has forced tens of thousands of people to flee for safety, and caused many humanitarian organizations to suspend or limit their activities. Internally displaced people and children are particularly affected by the suspensions.

In Beni, North Kivu, the epicentre of the new Ebola outbreak that has already caused 244 deaths and risks spreading regionally, repeated incursions by alleged non-state armed groups have regularly forced medical response teams to suspend their activities. This outbreak is the tenth to hit the DRC in 40 years. It was declared in North Kivu Province on 1 August this year and, given the worsening security situation in and around the city of Beni, the World Health Organization (WHO) elevated its risk level from “high” to “very high” on 28 September.

In August, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) had allocated $3.1 million to help humanitarian partners boost their response in an effort to contain the new outbreak and help our humanitarian partners deliver vital services and stop the spread of the virus.

Credit: OCHA/T.Ripani

Activities had already been suspended before in September for several days due to direct threats against humanitarian actors. WHO was forced to suspend all activities for a period of two days after attacks in late September in and around Beni, which left more than 20 dead. The UN Secretary-General condemned last weekend’s attack in the town of Mayongose (outskirts of Beni), in which at least 11 civilians were killed, and several more were injured and abducted. Last Friday, two Congolese health workers helping to combat the Ebola outbreak were killed in Butembo by armed militia.

Such attacks continue to put strain on humanitarian access in the conflict-torn region, where ongoing violence, insecurity and displacement, coupled by severe underfunding, continue to hamper response efforts. The number of people in need of humanitarian protection and assistance has nearly doubled over the last year to an estimated 13.1 million people - one out of every seven Congolese.

With just 28 per cent of funding received so far this year, against a requirement of US $1.7 billion, partners are only able to reach 10.5 per cent of the people in need.