* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
CONAKRY:The Ebola epidemic in the Republic of Guinea is threatening to become a regional health crisis endangering a vast population, warns humanitarian organisation Plan International.
The region of Forest Guinea, where most of the 59 reported deaths have occurred, is close to the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia. A few suspected cases have already been reported in Sierra Leone.
Plan works in the worst-affected areas of Forest Guinea and is calling for a coordinated emergency response involving Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to contain the deadly virus. The organisation has started supporting the Guinean authorities which have launched a full-fledged response to the Ebola crisis.
“The Ebola fever is one of the most virulent diseases known to mankind with a fatality rate up to 90 percent. Communities in the affected region stretch across the borders and people move freely within this area. This poses a serious risk of the epidemic becoming widespread with devastating consequences,” said Ibrahima Touré, Plan International Country Director in Guinea.
“Communities, especially children, in the border areas between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are vulnerable and need immediate support. A large scale preventive action will need to be put in place rapidly,” he added.
Plan staff in the affected area report that people are extremely concerned about the lethal Ebola virus which spreads by contact with infected people or animals. “Even though most people are going about their normal business, there is a strong fear of the disease in the communities. A few people have even left the affected area for Conakry,” said Mamady Dramé, Plan’s programme unit manager in Macenta, Forest Guinea.
“Rumours about the disease are rife in the affected areas. Sudden deaths of people have given rise to all sorts of stories among the population. The authorities, aware of the potential panic, are trying their best to encourage people to only consider information released by local officials and messages broadcast on local radio.”
“Local authorities are working with religious leaders in mosques and churches to provide information to people on preventive measures. It is critical that people receive clear and accurate information on what they can do to protect themselves,” he added.
There is no treatment or vaccine available for Ebola fever. It therefore poses a huge challenge for the Guinean authorities to stop the virus from spreading.
As a first response, Plan will join the Guinean authorities in disseminating information on preventive measures at the national level through radio, TV and SMS. In Forest Guinea, the organisation will particularly target children and schools in the communities.
Plan will also provide logistical support to the Guinean government in responding to the emergency.
(Plan experts in Conakry and staff on the ground are available for media interviews.)
- Founded in 1937, Plan is one of the world’s oldest and largest children's development organisations. Plan works in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations. www.plan-international.org
- Plan has been working in Guinea since 1989, helping poor children to access their rights to education, health, sanitation and protection. The organisation has 34,000 sponsored children spread over 65 communities across the country.
- Currently, Plan Guinea has 4 Programme Units in Forest Guinea covering the prefectures of Kissidougou, Guéckédou, Macenta, N’Zérékoré and the Littoral Programme Unit covering Coyah, Dubréka, Forécariah and Conakry. Plan is also implementing development projects in Télimele and Faranah Region.
Davinder Kumar (in Conakry)
Head of Communications (West Africa)
Global roaming: +44 7841436127+44 7841436127
Samory CONDE (in Conakry)
Communications & Public Relations Manager
Plan Guinea - Country Office
Mobile: +224 662 999 672