Ebola crisis: Red Cross says Guinea aid workers face attacks

Image source, AFP
Image caption, The ICRC said attacks on its volunteers were "unacceptable"

Aid workers fighting Ebola in Guinea are being subjected to an average of 10 attacks every month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says.

The latest assault happened on Sunday when two Guinean Red Cross volunteers were beaten by locals while trying to conduct a safe burial, the group said.

Last year eight aid workers were hacked to death in Guinea.

It came as the US said it would pull out troops stationed in Liberia to help contain the virus.

US President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that all but 100 of the soldiers remaining in the country would leave by the end of April.

There were 2,800 US troops in West Africa at the height of the epidemic, but about 1,500 have already left the region.

Mr Obama said about 10,000 "civilian responders" would stay in West Africa to fight the virus.

'Huge suspicion'

Media caption, Liberia's President Sirleaf on Ebola: "Our challenge is to make sure it does not come back"

In a statement released on Thursday, the president of the Guinean Red Cross, Youssouf Traore, said Ebola would not be stopped until people change their perceptions of the disease.

"Acts of violence committed against [volunteers] are completely unacceptable," he added.

The attacks against the group's workers ranged from verbal abuse to physical confrontations, the ICRC reported.

There is still a huge amount of suspicion among some West Africans surrounding the virus, said BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper.

Guineans often believe that those who come to bury the dead, disinfect areas and dispel myths are in fact spreading the disease, she added.

Image source, AFP
Image caption, Unsafe burial practices are one of the challenges that still need to be overcome

Encouraging decline

The announcement about the pullout of US troops from Liberia follows the news that the number of new Ebola cases has risen for the second consecutive week, ending a period of encouraging declines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Sierra Leone has registered 76 of the 144 new cases, while Guinea has registered 65 and Liberia three.

Despite the rise Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson has told the BBC she is "very optimistic that Ebola can be beaten".

Last week, Liberia had just a handful of confirmed Ebola cases, down from about 300 a week in August and September 2014.

Ebola deaths

Figures up to 13 January 2016


Deaths - probable, confirmed and suspected

(Includes one in the US and six in Mali)

  • 4,809 Liberia

  • 3,955 Sierra Leone

  • 2,536 Guinea

  • 8 Nigeria


Speaking to the BBC World Service's Newshour, the Liberian president addressed concerns that the international response to the Ebola virus had been too slow.

Although there had been a "delay" in other countries offering help to fight the virus, when assistance did arrive "it came so fully and so effectively that we can say that success is also owed to the international community", she said.

She said the poor state of Liberia's healthcare system had exacerbated the problem of trying to contain the spread of the virus initially, and called on the world to "work with us" in improving the system.

She added that co-operation with Liberia's neighbours was required to contain the virus, due to the country's "porous borders that are very long [and] unprotected".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, President Obama (left) said the pullout of the vast majority of US troops fighting Ebola in Liberia marked "the next phase of the fight"

Almost 23,000 people have been infected with Ebola since its outbreak in Guinea in December 2013, and more than 9,000 people have died.

The WHO has said that the increase in new cases highlights the "considerable challenges" that must still be overcome to end the outbreak.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the volunteers and Youssouf Traore as ICRC staff members.

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