Three Red Cross volunteers were injured Tuesday (2 October) when they were attacked while carrying out a safe and dignified burial in the city of Butembo in the north east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Two of the volunteers were seriously wounded and are now receiving medical care for their injuries.
DRC Red Cross teams have faced incidents of violence and aggression from communities resisting safe burial protocols since the start of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu. In September, one Red Cross volunteer was injured when people threw stones at a vehicle transporting a safe burial team. However, Tuesday’s attack has been the most violent incidence of community resistance to date.
Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“This is an awful reminder of the dangers that these volunteer safe and dignified burials teams face. While we categorically denounce the attack on our colleagues, we understand the fear and frustration that many communities in North Kivu feel right now. People are scared and there are many rumours circulating that only serve to heighten the sense of fear and distrust.”
The body of a person who has died from Ebola is highly infectious and if not handled properly can contaminate others. In previous Ebola outbreaks, these safe and dignified burials have been critical to stopping the spread of the disease.
“Every day, our teams are doing what they can to build trust, to provide information, and to help people understand the risk that Ebola presents. They can do this because they come from these communities themselves. They speak the language and understand the customs and traditional beliefs,” said IFRC’s Dr Nafo-Traoré.
The Red Cross has dispatched trained specialists to Butembo to provide immediate psychosocial support to those impacted and is working to improve the safety and security of volunteers.
Grégoire Mateso Mbuta, the President of the Red Cross of the DRC said:
“We call upon the communities in North Kivu to cooperate with volunteers and health workers who are giving their time to ensure that communities are protected from the Ebola outbreak. Local volunteers are critical to stopping the spread of disease.”
Since the beginning of the outbreak, more than 180 specially trained Red Cross safe and dignified burial volunteers have carried out 162 burials in North Kivu.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).