Residents in Beni (North Kivu province) held a "dead city" protest (total strike) on Monday, September 24, to mourn the 18 people killed during a September 22 attack attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group. Civil society organizations have called for a prolonged mourning period and further such protests to be held until Friday, September 28. They also called for local civilian and military authorities to be dismissed as well as the suspension of all NGO activities, including those aimed at countering an Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the area which has left nearly 100 people dead as of late September. These harsh measures are intended to force the authorities to take responsibility for the recurrent violence in the area, as "they'd rather die from Ebola."
Similar rebel attacks and unrest are possible in Beni over the coming days and weeks; further spread of EVD is to be expected in the near-term.
The ADF is a Ugandan Islamist militant group that has been active in North Kivu province since the late 1990s. Notably, the group is suspected of having carried out an attack on UN peacekeepers in Beni territory (North Kivu province) in December 2017, killing at least 15 peacekeepers and wounding some 53 others. In general, the Congolese government's limited presence in the eastern provinces, including North Kivu, as well as the presence of numerous armed groups (such as the ADF) and local self-defense militias (Maï-Maï militias) have led to continued insecurity in the area.
EVD is extremely virulent. The disease is transmitted to humans via direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals. The disease can then be transmitted between humans and is highly contagious, particularly during the hemorrhagic phase. Ebola is characterized by the sudden onset of high fever, weakness, joint and muscle pain, and headache. A sore throat is also a common early symptom. These symptoms are followed by nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, kidney and liver failure, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding.
Individuals in North Kivu province are advised to monitor developments to the situation, remain vigilant for militant activity, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
To prevent the spread of EVD:
- Avoid contact with infected individuals and any items that have been in their close proximity
- Avoid consuming bush meat and only handle animals when wearing gloves and the appropriate protective wear
- Animal products (meat and blood) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption
- Adhere to a strict observance of hygienic precautions (wash hands regularly, etc.)
- Avoid crowded areas (e.g. stadiums, markets, train stations, etc.). In case of doubt, individuals should seek immediate medical attention and comply with all directives issued by local health authorities.
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