The outbreak, the 10th in DRC’s history, has killed 100 people since being declared on August 1 in the eastern part of North Kivu, the WHO said.
The Congolese army has blamed the Allied Democratic Forces — an Islamist rebel movement born in western Uganda – for Saturday’s attack in the flashpoint town of Beni that killed at least 21 people.
Salama said the community had called for a period of protest and mourning through Friday. “That basically means for the UN family including WHO (there is) a lockdown in Beni. Our operations are in effect suspended,” he added.
Beni is a key hub for WHO’s North Kivu operations. Being on lockdown there, even for a few days, prevents health workers from the crucial work of tracking people who may have come into contact with Ebola, Salama warned.
“As the days go on, if we do see unsafe burials that can’t be responded to, if we do see symptomatic people that can’t be accessed, we can see this situation deteriorating very quickly.”
DRC is also on edge three months ahead of planned elections to replace president Joseph Kabila.
Salama stressed that while most people remained open to health workers, there has been a spread of “conspiracy theories” that ebola is part of a government plot or a sinister money-making scheme, which have curbed WHO’s access to civilians.