Wednesday, April 24, 2019
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DR Congo to deploy army to protect Ebola funeral workers

The measure aims to prevent more attacks on teams transporting the bodies of Ebola victims for burial.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo will deploy security forces to protect teams transporting the bodies of Ebola victims for burial, after several attacks on health workers during the latest Ebola outbreak in the country's troubled east, the government said.

The government is also making it a legal obligation for traditional healers to report those suspected of having the virus, the health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The new measures come after the International Red Cross last week condemned an attack that injured three of its volunteers who were trying to bury an Ebola victim.

Health professionals who fail to refer a suspected Ebola sufferer to a treatment centre will have their own centres shut down, the health ministry said.

Families will need a death certificate in order to obtain a burial permit and health workers will be allowed police protection during burials.

Proper burial of Ebola victims is critical to control the disease, which causes fever, vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through direct contact with body fluids.

In September, one Red Cross volunteer was injured when people threw stones at a vehicle transporting a safe burial team.

The organisation said they have been met by fear and distrust among those in the communities they are trying to help in the east of the country, which is plagued by conflict.

Ebola has spread to Beni, a city of several hundred thousand people where scores of people have been confirmed infected.

The authorities worry that without the cooperation of the local population they will have difficulty containing it.

Ebola has claimed 118 lives since the outbreak started nearly two months ago in a region where numerous militia groups operate, most fighting over the central African country's rich natural resources.

Last month, 21 people died in an attack by the Allied Democratic Forces rebels in the city of Beni, forcing the World Health Organization to briefly halt their anti-Ebola operations there.

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