Health workers fighting Ebola in DRC have run into an invisible but powerful hurdle,a belief system that deems the disease to be a curse or the result of evil spirits.
Some people are refusing medical care and turn instead to preachers and prayers to chase away the threat,they say.
The pastor of an evangelical church last Wednesday died several days after he “prayed” for an Ebola victim who went to him for help,a doctor said.
“Some sick people believe that the Ebola epidermic comes from sorcery they refuse to be treated and prefer to pray,”said Julie Lobali,a nurse on the front line against the DRC’s ninth Ebola outbreak.
She is working in a hospital in Mbandaka,a Port city on the Congo river in Northwest DRC where the first urban case was reported last Thursday.
Since the outbreak was declared in the remote area of Bikoro on may 8,51 cases of Ebola have been reported with 27 deaths.
One superstition that has become prevalent in the city ,she says,is believing that Ebola began in Bikoro as ‘a curse on those who ate stolen meat,”a wild animal hunted in the countryside.
Blandine Mboyo,who lives in Mbandaka’s district of Bongondjo,said”a hunter put a curse on the village because his big game was stolen.”
“This curse is so powerful because it hits those who ate this meat,having heard about the theft or having seen the stolen animal,”this disease is incurable it’s because its about witchcraft.”
For doctors and health officials these beliefs raise serious concerns,complicating efforts to contain and roll back the deadly Ebola virus.