Doctors fighting an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being forced to wear disguises in case they’re attacked by militiamen.
Health workers are ditching their scrubs and wearing plain clothes in an effort to conceal their identities and avoid conflict.
Others are riding on motorbikes that blend into traffic instead of medical jeeps that could draw attention to them.
A total of 1,161 people have died during the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo since it began in August
Doctors fighting the epidemic are afraid to wear scrubs in case they’re attacked by militiamen. Pictured: Health workers carry a coffin of a victim of the virus
‘Our staff has to lie about being doctors in order to treat people,’ Tariq Riebel, emergency response director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), told The Washington Post.
The Congo is currently facing the second deadliest outbreak of the killer virus ever, with the death toll climbing to 1,161 on Thursday.
The infection count, meanwhile, has shot to 1,760, Congo’s Ministry of Health said.
Armed militiamen believe Ebola is a conspiracy against them and have repeatedly attacked health workers battling the epidemic.
There have been 119 attacks this year against aid workers, with eighty-five being wounded or killed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It comes as aid groups warn they could run out of money in weeks.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that unless it gets more funding it won’t be able to continue providing support to crews burying Ebola victims.
Funerals were a major source of virus transmission during the worst ever Ebola epidemic in 2014-2016.
Each Ebola burial costs the equivalent of £400 for, among other things, the protective gear for workers.
The Congo Ebola epidemic has escalated sharply over the past month.
The health ministry says 20 per cent of all cases since August have been reported in just the last three weeks.
Health experts warn that because of security issues it has been difficult getting into some areas to vaccinate those most at risk.
The response to the Ebola outbreak has been hit by multiple setbacks – the World Health Organization has warned it is in danger of running out of money, a doctor was killed earlier this month, and last week was the worst so far for the number of cases recorded
WHO WARNS IT MAY RUN OUT OF MONEY FIGHTING EBOLA OUTBREAK
The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned the UN body is short of around $104million (£80m) it needs to keep fighting Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The funding gap must be filled so health workers can continue battling the virus to the end of July and beyond, Science reported.
‘We cannot intensify our efforts if we do not have enough funds,’ Dr Tedros said.
‘The current funding gap has meant that we have had to slow down preparedness activities in neighboring countries.’
The UK’s International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, echoed Dr Tedros’s sentiment and said other countries need to step up and contribute more.
She said this month: ‘The UK has been a major donor since the start. But this outbreak requires a truly global response if we’re to stop this threat.
‘It’s time for other countries to step up. Diseases like this do not respect borders and it’s in all of our interests to help contain the spread of Ebola.’
The UK Government has refused to disclose how much it is contributing to the effort.
Last month an attack on a hospital in Butembo killed a Cameroonian epidemiologist working for the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO said a surge in cases showed the current strategy of vaccinating those known to be directly exposed to the virus was no longer working.
More than 111,000 people have already received the protective jab, through a so-called ring vaccination approach.
But this has not proved enough to stop the highly contagious virus from spreading in regions of DRC wracked with insecurity.
Health workers have implemented a ‘ring’ strategy, vaccinating anyone directly exposed to known cases of Ebola, and a second ring of those exposed to people in the first ring.
‘The number of new cases continues to rise, in part due to repeated incidents of violence affecting the ability of response teams to immediately identify and create vaccination rings around all people at risk of contracting Ebola,’ the WHO said in a statement.
WHO experts have suggested giving the vaccine to entire neighbourhoods and villages where cases have been reported within the past 21 days.
Last week experts warned the outbreak in the Congo could end up as disastrous as the West Africa epidemic of 2014.
Dr Osman Dar, a global health expert at Chatham House and member of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh and Public Health England, said the death toll could spiral to rival the 11,310 who were killed in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone five years ago, he said.
On April 28, the Congo experienced its most devastating outbreak so far, with a record 27 cases diagnosed in a single day.
Dr Dar told MailOnline a lack of security where the outbreak is happening is the ‘key issue’ facing the organisations trying to stop it.
The 2014 outbreak in West Africa began when an 18-month-old boy in Guinea got infected by a bat in December 2013, and the illness quickly spread to neighbouring countries.
By the time the World Health Organization released its first situation report in August 2014, more than 3,000 people had been infected and 1,546 killed.
A year later the number of cases had rocketed to 28,073 and 11,290 people had died.
WHAT IS EBOLA AND HOW DEADLY IS IT?
Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, killed at least 11,000 across the world after it decimated West Africa and spread rapidly over the space of two years.
That pandemic was officially declared over back in January 2016, when Liberia was announced to be Ebola-free by the WHO.
The country, rocked by back-to-back civil wars that ended in 2003, was hit the hardest by the fever, with 40 per cent of the deaths having occurred there.
Sierra Leone reported the highest number of Ebola cases, with nearly of all those infected having been residents of the nation.
WHERE DID IT BEGIN?
An analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the outbreak began in Guinea – which neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A team of international researchers were able to trace the pandemic back to a two-year-old boy in Meliandou – about 400 miles (650km) from the capital, Conakry.
Emile Ouamouno, known more commonly as Patient Zero, may have contracted the deadly virus by playing with bats in a hollow tree, a study suggested.
An infected child is led away by a nurse at the Medecins Sans Frontiers centre in Monrovia, Liberia in 2014
Figures show nearly 29,000 people were infected from Ebola – meaning the virus killed around 40 per cent of those it struck.
Cases and deaths were also reported in Nigeria, Mali and the US – but on a much smaller scale, with 15 fatalities between the three nations.
Health officials in Guinea reported a mysterious bug in the south-eastern regions of the country before the WHO confirmed it was Ebola.
Ebola was first identified by scientists in 1976, but the most recent outbreak dwarfed all other ones recorded in history, figures show.
HOW DID HUMANS CONTRACT THE VIRUS?
Scientists believe Ebola is most often passed to humans by fruit bats, but antelope, porcupines, gorillas and chimpanzees could also be to blame.
It can be transmitted between humans through blood, secretions and other bodily fluids of people – and surfaces – that have been infected.
IS THERE A TREATMENT?
The WHO warns that there is ‘no proven treatment’ for Ebola – but dozens of drugs and jabs are being tested in case of a similarly devastating outbreak.
Hope exists though, after an experimental vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, protected nearly 6,000 people. The results were published in The Lancet journal.