CONAKRY (Reuters) - Red Cross teams in Ebola-hit Guinea have been attacked on average 10 times a month over the past year, the charity said on Thursday, warning that the violence was hampering efforts to contain the disease.
In the most recent incident last Sunday in the town of Forecariah about 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Conakry, two Red Cross volunteers were beaten while trying to conduct a safe burial, the charity said.
Ending traditional burials is seen as crucial to stopping the spread of the latest outbreak, which has killed more than 9,100 people, mainly in West Africa, because rituals often involve extensive contact with highly contagious corpses.
“As long as people have misconceptions about how Ebola is spread, and continue to prevent volunteers from doing their work, we will not stop the disease,” said Youssouf Traore, president of the Red Cross Society of Guinea.
The number of new cases in Guinea nearly doubled last week to 64, the World Health Organization said, jeopardising a government plan to get to zero new cases by early March.
Officials say that locals especially around the capital Conakry continued to hide sick friends and relatives from authorities.
Traore said he thought hostility towards the charity was due to rumours that it had been disinfecting schools and vaccinating children, amid fears this was part of a plot to infect locals with the virus.
President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he was bringing back nearly all U.S. troops fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and marking a new phase in the battle to help countries “get to zero” cases. Guinea has the longest way to go in ending the outbreak, he added.
Reporting by Misha Hussain, West Africa correspondent for the Thomson Reuters Foundation; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Crispian Balmer