The bodies of eight officials and journalists who went to a remote village in Guinea to dispel rumors about the deadly Ebola outbreak gripping the region were discovered after a rock-hurling mob attacked the delegation, claiming that it had come to spread the illness, a government spokesman said Thursday.
The delegation had left for the village on Tuesday for what was supposed to be a community event to raise awareness about the Ebola virus, said the spokesman, Albert Camara Damantang. When the angry crowd descended on them, he said, several officials managed to escape and alert their colleagues in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, who sent out a search party.
“They went on a mission to try to sensitize the local population about Ebola, but unfortunately they were met with hostility by people throwing rocks,” Mr. Damantang said.
In the delegation was a sub-prefect, a regional health director and a pastor “who came to offer solace, as well as several journalists from communal radio stations,” Mr. Damantang said. “Among the only survivors we found of those who tried to hide in the bush was the 5-year-old son of the sub-prefect, who was left hiding in the wild.”
The Ebola epidemic has already killed more than 2,600 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Governments have scrambled to figure out a way to contain it, but beyond their own limited resources, collapsing health systems and inexperience with the disease, they have faced another dangerous obstacle: distrust among the local population.
In Guinea, workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes.
In Liberia, some politicians have publicly expressed doubts about the extent of the outbreak, and even accused the administration of exaggerating it to collect money from international donors.
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