A range of issues has led to these tensions: from the massive deployment of financial resources focusing only on Ebola in a neglected region suffering from conflict, violence, and long-standing health needs; to elections being officially postponed due to the Ebola outbreak, exacerbating suspicions that Ebola is a political ploy.
The use of police and armed forces to compel people to comply with health measures against Ebola is leading to further alienation of the community and is counterproductive to controlling the epidemic. Using coercion for activities such as safe burials, tracking of contacts, and admission into treatment centers discourages people from coming forward and pushes them into hiding.
The Ebola response must take a new turn: Coercion must not be used as a tactic to track and treat patients, enforce safe burials, or decontaminate homes; patients and their families must be included and empowered when it comes to decisions on how to manage the disease in their communities. Vaccination for Ebola must reach more people, and more vaccines are needed for this. Other dire health needs of communities should be addressed.
“Ebola is a brutal disease, bringing fear and isolation to patients, families, and health care providers,” Dr. Liu said. “The Ebola response needs to become patient- and community-centered. Patients must be treated as patients, and not as some kind of biothreat.”
As reported cases of Ebola surpass 900 since the beginning of the outbreak, MSF is continuing to conduct Ebola-related activities in the North Kivu towns of Kayna and Lubéru, as well as manage two Ebola transit facilities in Ituri province, in the towns of Bwanasura and Bunia. In the city of Goma, MSF is supporting emergency preparedness by reinforcing the surveillance system to ensure there is adequate capacity to manage suspected cases.