Security measures for staff helping to fight health emergencies need to be stepped up urgently, a UN health agency top official has said. This is after a front-line Ebola epidemic community worker was reportedly stabbed to death at his home in northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Speaking at a public event in Geneva, Dr. Mike Ryan from the World Health Organization (WHO), said that in his 25-year humanitarian career, violence carried out deliberately against health workers and hospitals had never been so bad.
The “overwhelming impact” had been on local health workers, not international staff, Dr. Ryan told a Geneva Peace Week event, in his capacity as Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.
Despite the risks of working in insecure locations, “one doesn’t really have a choice but to go, as the epidemic will continue to spread and intensify like fire if it’s not put out”, he said. “It does put our workers at the extreme edge of risk.”
In 2019 alone, there have been 862 reported attacks on healthcare workers and facilities from just 10 countries, resulting in 173 deaths and 557 significant injuries. “And that probably is a massive underestimation of the problem,” Dr. Ryan insisted.
As part of the response to the outbreak of Ebola, the Red Cross has been working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ensure safe burials to help stop the spread of the deadly disease. (August 2019)UN Photo/Martine Perret
In Geneva, Dr. Ryan also expressed his sympathies for the families of three UN Migration Agency (IOM) workers killed eight days ago near an Ebola screening point on South Sudan’s border with DRC last Wednesday.