Red Cross suspends Ebola operations in southeast Guinea after threats
By Misha Hussain
DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Red Cross in Guinea said on Wednesday it had been forced to suspend operations tackling Ebola in the country's southeast after staff there were threatened by a group of men armed with knives.
The incident on Tuesday in Gueckedou, about 650 kms (403 miles) southeast of the capital Conakry, is the latest in a series against health workers, undermining efforts to help the region's weak health systems fight one of the world's deadliest diseases.
A Medicins Sans Frontieres centre in nearby Macenta was attacked by youths two months ago after staff there were accused of bringing the disease to Guinea.
"Locals wielding knives surrounded a marked Red Cross vehicle. We've suspended operations for safety reasons," a Red Cross official in West Africa said, asking not to be named.
"I imagine this won't be the last time this happens," he added.
The outbreak of the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is the largest and deadliest ever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The organisation has recorded 467 deaths from 759 known cases since February.
Local and foreign doctors are battling a deep-rooted fear and lack of understanding of the disease, which has driven dozens of victims to evade treatment and made it harder to track patients.
Health ministers from 11 West African states are meeting in Accra, Ghana, on Wednesday and Thursday to try to coordinate the regional response to the epidemic. Continued...