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Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung: epidemiologist who was killed by armed rebels while leading an Ebola response team in the Congo

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 13 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4212

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  1. Ned Stafford
  1. Hamburg, Germany
  1. ns{at}
Credit: World Health Organization

In March 2019, Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung left his wife and four young children at home in Cameroon to join the World Health Organization’s mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to fight the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. An epidemiologist who had worked with WHO for the past five years, Mouzoko had the experience that was needed.

Ebola in DRC

Mouzoko, 42 years old, was dispatched to Butembo in north east DRC to lead a response team. Within days of arriving, Dr Richard, as he was known, became a popular figure among the members of his team. “Richard was like a big brother,” said Soterine Tsanga, a communications officer in the WHO office in Cameroon who was also deployed to DRC and worked closely with Mouzoko.

Mouzoko had the heavy responsibility of leading an Ebola response team in a foreign country weighing on him, combined with deep concern about his team’s safety. Rebels in north eastern DRC, as well as many community members, believe that Ebola was deliberately imported or does not exist. Ebola treatment centres had been under attack from local militiamen since January. Responders and burial teams had been threatened and assaulted. In late February Médecins Sans Frontières suspended some of its operations after two attacks on its treatment centres.

Mouzoko was worried, according to a news report from US National Public Radio, which quoted Michel Yao, head of WHO’s on-the-ground operations for the Ebola response, as saying of Mouzoko: “One of …

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