Efforts to fight a deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive eastern Beni region have resumed after a brief suspension following clashes, the World Health Organization said Sunday.
“On Sunday, all activities have re-launched, including vaccination,” the UN health agency said in a statement.
DR Congo’s health ministry had announced a suspension of operations in Beni after deadly clashes erupted Friday just a “few metres” from a local emergency centre and the hotels of several response teams.
UN peacekeepers from the MONUSCO mission had repelled an offensive by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia in Beni city’s northern Boikene neighbourhood, a ministry statement said.
The ADF, a shadowy armed group that has killed hundreds of people since 2014 and at least seven peacekeepers in clashes just last week, wanted to “attack one of MONUSCO’s bases”, the statement added.
WHO said that all the health workers involved in the Ebola response were safe, but said 16 of its staff in Beni had been temporarily evacuated to Goma for psychological care after the building they were staying in was hit by a shell that did not explode.
Michel Yao, WHO’s coordinator for Ebola response operations in Beni, told AFP Saturday that no one was injured, and said it remained unclear whether the shell had come from the ADF or MONUSCO forces.
Since August 1, the Ebola outbreak in Beni, home to up to 300,000 people, has killed 213 people.
A total of 30 health workers have been infected in the outbreak to date, including three deaths, according to the WHO.
The UN has said unrest is hampering efforts to contain the disease in a region that has been troubled for decades by inter-ethnic bloodshed and militia violence.
“WHO will continue to work side-by-side with the ministry and our partners to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Sunday’s statement.
“We honour the memory of those who have died battling this outbreak, and deplore the continuing threats on the security of those still working to end it,” he added.