Health workers in Guinea, where the current Ebola outbreak began, traveled to a remote village Tuesday on a mission to distribute information to locals about how to avoid the deadly disease, as well as to perform disinfectant work on village facilities. But tragically, the villagers in the southeastern town of Womme met the workers not with a welcoming committee, but with a lynch mob.
Two days later, the dead bodies of eight workers were found stuffed into a septic tank outside a school. Three of the health workers had their throats slit. The rest were stoned and beaten to death by villagers, many of whom believe that the Ebola outbreak is a conspiracy by whites to exterminate black people.
“It’s very sad and hard to believe, but they were killed in cold blood by the villagers,” Albert Damantang Camara, a Guinea government spokesman told the French AFP news service.
One journalist escaped the frenzied slaughter, later reporting that, as she hid, she heard villagers searching for her, attempting to hunt her down and murder her too.
The eight workers — comprised of health workers and journalists — arrived in the remote village on Tuesday intending to hand out literature and answer questions about Ebola. They also planned to show locals how to protect themselves against the deadly Ebola outbreak, which has now killed 2,622 people, mostly in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
But, according to local radio reports cited by The Los Angeles Times, the fearful residents stared pelting the health delegation with rocks when they saw workers spraying disinfectant in public areas — apparently believing the workers were actually spraying the Ebola virus into their village.
When the delegation went missing, the Guinea government sent a search team to find them, but locals had destroyed the lone bridge on the road to Womme, so the searchers weren’t able to reach the village.
The widespread belief throughout rural regions of West Africa that the Ebola outbreak is the result of a conspiracy to deliberately kill people with the virus has caused a significant hindrance to medical and health professionals in their attempts to treat the disease and contain the spread of Ebola.
The mass murder of the health workers in Womme was just the latest in a series of riots and attacks on health workers and facilities in the region.
According to the World Health Organization, there have been more than 5,300 confirmed Ebola cases so far — but that number is expected to exceed 20,000 before the outbreak is finally controlled, without a massive international effort to fight the disease.