DR Congo: Red Cross volunteers attacked during Ebola burial

Goma/Nairobi/Geneva, 15 January 2020 – Two volunteers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) Red Cross were seriously injured following an attack during a safe and dignified burial of a suspected Ebola case near Mambasa, in eastern DR Congo on Monday, 13 January. The volunteers are now in hospital, receiving medical care and psychosocial support.

DR Congo Red Cross teams have faced incidents of violence and aggression from communities resisting safe and dignified burial protocols since the start of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri.  In this most recent attack, the family had consented to the burial but rumours and panic quickly spread among the community resulting in a violent assault against the Red Cross team.

Grégoire Mateso Mbuta, President of the DR Congo Red Cross Society said:

“This incident is a stark reminder of the serious risks our volunteers face when they carry out the dangerous task of safe and dignified burials. While we deplore any violence towards our volunteers or staff, we understand first hand, the fear and frustration that communities harbour and shall continue to render the needed services to the affected populations.”

The current Ebola outbreak, which began on 1 August 2018, is unfolding in an area affected by a two decades-long conflict that has claimed countless lives and raised fear and hostility towards responders.

Building community trust and acceptance has been at the core of the Red Cross’ Ebola response operations. This investment has paid off. Since the beginning of the outbreak nearly 20,000 successful safe and dignified burials have been conducted with a consistently high success rate.

Red Cross volunteers continue to work within affected communities, listening to concerns and gathering feedback that is then analysed and used to provide improved support to people in need. As a result, community resistance for safe and dignified burials has drastically declined over the course of the operation.

Nicole Fassina, Ebola Operations Manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:

“While we experienced an overall improvement in community’s acceptance of burials, this attack underscores why we cannot become complacent. The Red Cross will continue to engage and involve communities in the Ebola response if we want to bring this outbreak to end.”

Related press releases