VICTIMS of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Congo are refusing treatment fearing the vaccination could kill them.
Reports have emerged that aid workers on the ground are struggling to treat some communities, with many residents not trusting the government’s advise to seek treatment.
One couple, Mussa and Asiya Kethembo, who reportedly died after refusing to seek treatment for Ebola were buried on Sunday.
Community worker Josue Paluku Kalume told the AfricaNews: “For the couple, we spent two weeks negotiating to go to the CTE (Ebola treatment centre) quickly, but the husband wanted witch doctors.
“He let some into his home.”
The pair are survived by two children, including a two-month old baby, Lahya, who has been confirmed not to have contracted Ebola.
The current outbreak in the Congo began in August last year, when it was confirmed that four people had tested positive for Ebola in the eastern region of Kivu.
The virus later spread to Uganda, having infected a five-year-old boy who travelled across the border with his family.
By November, it had become the second largest outbreak ever, behind only the epidemic that hit West Africa in 2013- 2016.
As of July 26, 1,769 people are confirmed to have died in the Congo, with another three deaths recorded in Uganda.
‘SOME BELIEVE THE VACCINE COULD KILL THEM’
Reasons people are declining to seek treatment typically centre on mistrust of the government and suspicion about the vaccine.
“They interpret the vaccines in their own way,” Kalume said.
“They believe that after you get vaccinated, it will be difficult to give birth, that the vaccine is going to kill them, that the vaccine was designed to exterminate that community.
“So as communicators, we are here to convince them and talk about the benefit of this vaccine”
In October, the Congolese government made it punishable by three months in jail to harbour somebody known to have Ebola.
Health workers could also see their facilities shut down if they fail to refer patients with the illness to specialist treatment centres.
One local resident said they had heard rumours that the vaccination actually gives people Ebola, though added: “When we had the patient Ebola in our neighbourhood, we had to accept the vaccine.”
‘WE ARE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN’
Dr. Maurice Kakule, who became one of the most recent outbreak’s first patients after treating a woman at his clinic, told the Associated Press: “Some have heard of the problem of Ebola but there have been no survivors in their family.
“Since they had relatives die at a treatment center, they think people are killed there and that’s why they categorically refuse to go.”
Olivia Ajira Kwinja, World Vision’s Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Manager in the DRC, told the Daily Star that one of the biggest barriers to improving information is gaining access to communities in the first place.
“From my point of view there is much work to be done at a community level,” she said.
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“We are doing everything we can to stop the Ebola disease but we still fear there will be more cases.
“There are rumours at a community level and people need to be taught Ebola is a disease and it is real.”
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