DR Congo virus health workers strike over unpaid wages

AFP , Monday 6 Jul 2020

Health workers battling the coronavirus pandemic in DR Congo's capital Kinshasa said Monday they are on "unlimited strike" until they get paid.

The workers in Kinshasa, where nearly 90 percent of the vast central African country's infections have been recorded, said they hadn't been paid for three months.

"They paid us for only a few days of work in the month of March alone," said Christian Kacita, a doctor and spokesman for the striking workers.

"They refuse us the right to sign employment contracts despite the risks we take," he added.

"In cases of contamination, they abandon us to our sad fate," he added, deploring a lack of equipment.

Health Minister Eteni Longondo told Top Congo radio on Monday that before payment he demanded that names fraudulently added to the list of people fighting the pandemic be removed.

DR Congo's coronavirus front man Jean-Jacques Muyembe said on June 20 that he had only received $1.4 million from the government to fight the disease since the country recorded its first cases in early March.

Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba told senators on May 21 that $10.7 million had been supplied.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister seen by AFP, the striking health workers also demanded "care for the families of members of the COVID-19 response team who have died".

A group of around 30 doctors, nurses, lab techs and paramedics set fire to two tyres in front of the entrance to their headquarters, an AFP journalist said.

There are 35 health zones in Kinshasa, which each employs roughly 20 people charged with tending to the sick and their families.

The city of around 10 million has recorded 6,505 of the Democratic Republic of Congo's 7,432 infections. Nationwide, 182 people have died from coronavirus.

Last month, Nobel laureate Denis Mukwege announced he had resigned as head of a coronavirus taskforce in the eastern province of South Kivu, citing organisational problems and slow testing.

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