Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) has officially halted all its medical activities in the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following a second major attack on another of its treatment centers, that organization has announced.
In an official statement released on the MSF website, that organization said “unidentified assailants” set facilities and vehicles on fire in the latest attack at clinic in Butembo, North Kivu province, carried out on February 27.
“The blazes were contained, but the teams were obliged to immediately cease patient care. At the time of the attack, there were 57 patients admitted in the treatment center, which was run alongside the Ministry of Health; 15 of the patients were confirmed to have Ebola,” the MSF statement said.
This incident comes only days after another Ebola treatment facility, also supported by MSF teams in the neighboring district of Katwa, was attacked on 24 February–also forcing its suspension.
“MSF has evacuated our staff from the area for their safety pending a thorough analysis of the risks associated with continuing to provide medical care there,” the MSF statement continued.
“We are extremely saddened by these attacks on our medical facilities. Not only did they endanger the lives of our staff members, they also endangered the most vulnerable people at the heart of our response: the patients,” said MSF emergency desk manager Hugues Robert.
“In light of these two violent incidents, we have no choice but to suspend our activities until further notice.”
The MSF statement said that no staff or patients were harmed, “but both attacks were traumatic for patients, their relatives and staff who were inside the centers at the time. The caretaker of one patient died during the attack on the centre in Katwa, allegedly when he tried to flee.”
Almost seven months after the beginning of the current Ebola outbreak in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, there have been 879 confirmed cases of Ebola and 553 people have died (488 deaths are confirmed cases).