Keeping Congolese in Check about Ebola

As medical teams work to fight the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, local media organisations and activists are waging a second war against rumours that sow doubt about the disease and distrust of vaccines. Many locals are suspicious of medical workers and believe the outbreak, which has killed more than 1,000 people since last August, was orchestrated by politicians. Conspiracy theories are rampant on social media, with some users rejecting the existence of Ebola, and others claiming that it is a biological weapon created to decimate the population or that medical teams are more interested in making money than in containing the disease. The hostility has been underscored by violence toward medical workers in North Kivu province, in eastern Congo, where the outbreak has hit hardest. Treatment centers have been targeted, and a nurse and doctor were killed in recent months in attacks believed to have been carried out by local militias. Distrust of the disease was heightened after the North Kivu cities of Beni and Butembo were excluded from voting in the presidential election in December, with authorities citing the Ebola outbreak, said our Observer Sammy Mupfuni, a journalist who co-founded the fact-checking website Congo Check. The site recently began identifying and debunking rumours surrounding Ebola. Congo Check also aims to raise awareness of the disease by reminding locals that Ebola is spread by bodily fluids and that many people have been successfully treated at the medical centres, known as CTEs.

SOURCES: THE OBSERVERS

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