More than one-third of the United Nation’s Ebola responders in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Beni were relocated Tuesday amid growing insecurity in the area, while the other responders remained to help combat the deadly outbreak.
The World Health Organization said a surge in violence in Beni forced 49 “non-critical” staff members to be moved south to Goma.
Seventy-one essential staff remained to harness the outbreak in Congo that has left some 2,200 dead, the U.N. health agency said.
Violence has hindered efforts to rein in the outbreak that began in August 2018.
The military said at least four protesters were killed Monday when they stormed a U.N. compound over a perceived failure of U.N. peacekeepers to prevent attacks by rebel militia groups.
Seventy-seven civilians have been killed in the recent surge in violence since November 5, according to the non-profit Congo Research Group.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier acknowledged the spike in violence Tuesday at a news conference in Geneva, but emphasized Ebola responders were not targeted as they were during previous violent outbreaks.
Health workers have worked to halt the spread of the virus through vaccinations and by tracking anyone who has been in contact with infected people.
Lindmeier said health workers tracked only 17 percent of those contacts on Monday, dramatically fewer than the 90 percent who are typically tracked.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted Monday evening that every day Ebola responders “don’t have full access to affected areas” is a “tragedy” that prolongs the second worst Ebola outbreak in history.
Each day that we don’t have full access to all #Ebola-affected areas in #DRC we cede ground to the virus, prolonging the outbreak.
This is a tragedy because it will only add to the suffering of already overburdened communities.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 26, 2019