Ebola Crisis In Congo Is The Latest Problem On A Long List Of Woes : Goats and Soda For a variety of reasons, the people in eastern Congo are skeptical about the international efforts to quash the Ebola crisis that has claimed 2,000 lives so far.
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In Congo, Ebola Is Just One More Thing To Worry About

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In Congo, Ebola Is Just One More Thing To Worry About

In Congo, Ebola Is Just One More Thing To Worry About

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a story now about the distrust of experts. That's a big force in this country's politics, and it is not limited to the United States. This story takes us to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, many people do not trust doctors or public health officials, which matters a lot because the region faces an Ebola outbreak. Here's NPR's Eyder Peralta.

(CROSSTALK)

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: The family guides me and my interpreter to a corner behind the clapboard house.

So this is - this is blood-soaked.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: This is the blood. And they broke the window, and you can see there is much blood.

PERALTA: Overnight, armed men rummaged through their house. They took their TV. They broke the windows. And they shot two of Marie Gorette's (ph) sons. She picks through the broken glass, which she has carefully stacked over one of her curtains. There was so much blood, the white curtain had turned red.

MARIE GORETTE: (Through interpreter) We thinking that it's our own soldiers who are doing this because when they come, they speak calmly, speaking Lingala and operating calmly without any fear.

PERALTA: This happens all the time in this neighborhood. Some neighbors say the thieves don't even bother to take off their uniforms. So this time, her neighbors decided to block the streets with boulders. It means no one, not police, not military, not even the Ebola response teams can move around freely here. Josias Luhemba (ph), one of the neighbors, says what he doesn't understand is why the international community is pouring millions into the Ebola response when people have been dying in this region for decades.

JOSIAS LUHEMBA: (Through interpreter) They should give millions of dollars so that they can put an end to that. But they're not doing that.

PERALTA: When militias kill civilians, no one cares, he says. When their own government attacks them, no one cares. But they're supposed to believe the government and the international community want to save them from some virus this part of Congo had never seen before?

LUHEMBA: (Through interpreter) We think that maybe it's a conspiracy of the international community. They want to massacre people thinking that people will be scared and flee and leave the lands.

FIDEL BAFILEMBA: I know it's a conspiracy theory, but what do you want when you're living in a world in a country with the largest U.N. peacekeeping mission for 20 years and all the while you have over 130 armed groups?

PERALTA: That's political analyst Fidel Bafilemba. The Congolese, he says, have been betrayed time and again. During colonial times, Belgium's King Leopold treated Congo as his personal property. In the late '90s, this part of Congo was the epicenter of what was known as Africa's world war. Fueled by foreign powers, it left an estimated 5.4 million people dead. And now a country brimming with natural resources is fleeced not just by its own government but by armed groups with ties to neighboring countries.

BAFILEMBA: Sometimes it's so surprising to me that we're still alive.

PERALTA: Goma, he says, is home to more than 250 international aid agencies. The U.N. peacekeepers fly around in gunships and ride on the back of brand-new trucks with automatic weapons. Yet militias are still hacking people with machetes. There is no running water, and malaria still kills tens of thousands each year.

BAFILEMBA: It's a mockery. It's an insult. It's racism.

PERALTA: I did bring those charges to David Gressly, who has led the peacekeeping mission in Congo and has now been appointed to represent the U.N. in the Ebola response. He says the Congolese government is primarily responsible for fixing many of the country's problems. But he says he gets it. What people here yearn for most is peace.

DAVID GRESSLY: We see it on the ground. People are tired. Civilians are tired. The army is tired of fighting and dying. The armed groups are tired of the same. And, you know, I think there is an opportunity when you have that level of fatigue of conflict to actually bring it to closure.

PERALTA: One of the most striking parts of Goma is the Goma University building. It's four stories and every single window is broken. It's a reminder of the many violent showdowns between students and security forces. I find Samuel Swedi studying for an exam - no textbook, just whatever he has hand-copied into a notebook.

SAMUEL SWEDI: (Speaking French).

PERALTA: He's studying electrical engineering, but he says his professors are still teaching the same techniques they were taught in school decades ago. But there is a bigger problem here he says.

SWEDI: (Through interpreter) Usually people study the things that are not their dreams.

PERALTA: Students pick careers that will feed them, he says. And all anyone wants is the freedom to follow their dreams. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

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