Bishop of Winchester asks Government about security for health and aid workers responding to Ebola outbreak in DRC

On 20th May 2019 a Government statement on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,  was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement from the other place. My diocese is linked directly with the Congo and I have had a relationship with the current Bishop of North Kivu, Bishop Isesomo, for nearly 20 years.

I see the outbreak of Ebola as the presenting issue for what is a community breakdown. Over the past 25 years, particularly since the 1990s, we have seen a form of alternative governance which makes it very hard for any kind of intervention to work that does not tackle the question of security. One of the major differences between what is currently seen in the eastern side of the Congo and Sierra Leone is that we could guarantee security more clearly in Sierra Leone than ​we can in the Congo. I welcome the noble Baroness’s comments on the need for sensitivity as we work with the Government of the Congo, but I urge that we take security as a top priority. Dr Richard Mouzoko was killed by people practising the alternative governance that we currently see. Any form of intervention that does not provide security for health workers, and for other aid workers who are prepared to risk their lives to be part of any intervention, would simply leave us very vulnerable and unable to tackle the root causes of the problem, which are fundamentally to do with how the communities relate to each other.

Baroness Goldie: I thank the right reverend Prelate for his remarks. The whole Chamber will recognise that he speaks with deep personal knowledge, and I am sure a degree of personal pain, in understanding what is happening in that country. Sadly, it is the case that community trust is one of the most challenging aspects. When we consider that there have been ongoing attacks on both Ebola treatment centres and front-line health staff, it paints a very depressing picture indeed.

As I said, working in conjunction with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other global and NGO partners, we are endeavouring to address the very issues the right reverend Prelate talks about. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for DfID made it clear in the other place that he is actively engaged in such dialogue to determine how pressure can best be brought to bear. He was very clear that pressure might have to be brought to bear on the Government and opposition parties, United Nations agencies, NGOs—whoever. Certainly, the UK Government are prepared to pursue that energetic role if that would make the attainment of treatment more realistic for the very people now needing it and surmount the challenges that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, rightly identified as being the impediment to getting treatment to those people.


%d bloggers like this: