Priests beaten in Forecariah, Guinea over Ebola fears

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Three Baptist priests in Guinea were assaulted and held hostage yesterday by local villagers after being mistaken for campaigners promoting awareness about Ebola, the BBC has reported. They were visiting Kabac, a village in the sub-prefecture of Forécariah, to spray insecticide for the treatment of wells and pit latrines. Locals reportedly thought they were bringing Ebola and attacked the priests. After the assault they were held hostage and had their vehicle set alight.

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus.
Image: Centers for Disease Control / Dr. Frederick Murphy.

Following the attack on the priests, town council workers were forced to evacuate as their building came under assault and was set fire to. A local report, not been independently verified, alleged a council worker was killed during the incident. Police intervened to arrest a number of the local villagers involved in the attacks but were met with hostility from those trying to stop the arrested being taken away.

Such incidents have been noted by the World Health Organisation (WHO). A recent WHO report said "community resistance" is a "major barrier to control" in the countries Ebola has worst hit.

Forécariah has seen incidents like this before. In one incident, on September 23, two Red Cross volunteers buried an Ebola victim, and were then attacked. Villagers removed the corpse from the grave and hid it. This then grew into an attack on a team of epidemiologists by a mob of about 3000 armed youths. This attack had undone "weeks of persistent and effective efforts to slow the outbreak" according to the WHO, who were overseeing the team.

Although not the worst affected country, Guinea has seen 1,876 deaths from 2,871 cases of Ebola, according to WHO. This is compared to Liberia and Sierra Leone with 3,605 and 3,145 deaths each from the effects of the Ebola virus.