Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on the recent attacks against Ebola treatment centers in the DRC

28 February 2019
A man crouches next to a girl holding a poster on Ebola, Democratic Republic of Congo
Jean-Pierre Masuku, UNICEF’s Ebola Outreach Officer in North Kivu in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, discusses Ebola prevention with a girl in Ebola-affected Beni.

NEW YORK, 28 February 2019 – “I am appalled by the latest violent attack against an Ebola treatment center that was providing care to children and families in Butembo, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). During the incident yesterday – the second such attack in less than a week – a police officer was killed and part of the facility set ablaze.

“I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family members and colleagues of the officer who lost his life in yesterday’s attack, and to the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff who are providing care to people under very difficult conditions. I also commend the ongoing efforts of partners on the ground – including WHO, MSF, ALIMA and other organizations – for their ongoing work under the leadership of the DRC Government and Ministry of Health to stop the Ebola epidemic and assist children and families affected by the disease. 

“Each day, the staff of UNICEF and our partners, including health workers at the treatment centers and in the communities are making truly heroic efforts to save the lives of children and adults infected with the Ebola virus. This work stands as a bulwark against the deadly outbreak – now the second largest in history – stopping it from spiraling out of control. It is unconscionable that anyone would seek to rob children and families of a service that could mean their very survival.

“The only way we can end this outbreak together is for health workers, UNICEF and our partners, to be able to operate safely in all communities affected by the disease, including in the most remote areas. Medical facilities should not be collateral damage of the insecurity in eastern DRC.

“More than 800 people in the DRC have already been infected with Ebola during this latest outbreak, 500 of whom have died. Children account for one third of all confirmed Ebola cases, more than any previous outbreak. Reprehensible attacks against lifesaving treatment centers, health care and humanitarian workers, could make the situation much worse. 

“There is some hope: the disease is now largely under control in the former hotspots of Mangina, Beni, Komanda; more than 250 people have been cured and 80,000 protected through vaccination. UNICEF and our partners have reached more than 10 million people with information about preventive measures to protect themselves from infection and prevent further spread. We’ve also identified more than 1,000 Ebola orphans and separated children and are helping to provide them with care.

“Now is the time to build on those achievements and bring this outbreak to an end. UNICEF urges those who use violence against the Ebola response to cease these activities immediately, and to enter into dialogue with local communities and authorities to better understand the true nature of the Ebola epidemic and become part of the solution in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease.”

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