Violence and unrest have severely hampered efforts to contain the second worst Ebola epidemic on record, which has killed 2,199 people since it was announced in August 2018.
Militias known as Mai Mai and local residents have attacked health facilities, sometimes because they believe Ebola does not exist, in other cases because of resentment that they have not benefited from the influx of donor funding.
Mai Mai fighters simultaneously attacked Ebola centers in Mangina in North Kivu and Byakoto in Ituri, said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, head of the Ebola response for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“It is a blow to the Ebola response because we were eradicating the disease. These attacks are challenging the efforts to date,” Muyembe said.
Police said the three dead were World Health Organization (WHO) workers. The WHO were not yet able to confirm if their staff were killed, and said the locations attacked were not hospitals or treatment centers.
“This is the first time we have had an actual attack on our bases,” Margaret Harris, a WHO spokeswoman, told Reuters.
“We’ve seen it time and time again that we have the number of cases declining, and then you have an episode of violence where activities cannot continue at full strength for a few days and you see a rise in cases, so it’s a major setback.”
New infections have been on the decline since August, with just 70 cases identified in all of October, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Monday.
The raids came amid a spate of massacres committed by suspected Islamist rebels in the region, who are believed to have killed at least 80 people in the past month.
This week at least four people were also killed during protests fueled by anger at the perceived failure of the army and U.N. peacekeepers to protect civilians from the Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
As a result, the WHO and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday evacuated dozens of their staff working on the Ebola epidemic from the town of Beni.
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