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Guinea: new surge in Ebola cases near the capital prompts shift in containment strategy

07 Apr 2015

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Forecariah, Guinea: Ebola Crisis Manager for Guinea Abdou Dieng, OCHA Head of Mission Noel Tsekouras and OCHA Field Coordinator Florent Mehaule visit a World Food Programme logistics hub in Forecariah, the latest Ebola hotspot in Guinea. Credit: Rosalia Gitau/OCHA
 
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OCHA is deploying field coordinators to support and streamline the work of UN agencies and partners in hotspot areas surrounding Conakry.

Three bumpy hours from Conakry, the capital of Guinea, Forecariah is distinguished by long stretches of densely clustered palm trees and jungle. Local roadside stalls sell palm oil and charcoal. Life, by and large, seems to be good for residents of this sub-prefecture and town, located in western Guinea. Asked how their lives have been affected by the regional Ebola crisis, a group of men reply nonchalantly: “There’s no problem here.”

But there is a problem. Forecariah and the surrounding area have recently seen a new surge in Ebola cases. Not recognizing the dangers that this health risk poses for the local population could prove fatal. Experts agree the battle against Ebola can only be won in Forecariah and the many other little towns and hamlets that dot this West African nation: at the community level.

Contrary to downward trends in infection rates in Liberia and Sierra Leone, in March, Guinea reported its highest caseload of Ebola since the beginning of the year. Of particular concern is a scenario where the virus would close in on the capital, Conakry, where some two million people live in often densely populated and poorly-serviced conditions. This is exactly what occurred in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the urbanization of the epidemic meant an acceleration in infections and deaths.

In an effort to prevent this from taking place in Guinea, Ebola responders are focusing their collective efforts on stemming the spread of the disease in Forecariah, Coyah, Boffa, and Dubreka. These four communes, which surround Conakry, all have high infection rates and active caseloads.

This joint effort includes re-positioning personnel and assets away from previously affected areas and, in some cases, also surging personnel to new outbreak areas. At the request of the head of the UN Mission for the Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER) in Guinea, Mr. Abdou Dieng, OCHA is deploying field coordinators to support and streamline the work of UN agencies and partners. 

“The Ebola response is now concentrating on new hotspots,” says Dieng. “Our coordination support to this new phase will help enable our partners to respond immediately, wherever new cases occur.”

The OCHA field coordinators will initially be based in Coyah and Forecariah, where they will also cover Dubreka, and Boffa. OCHA will also support UNMEER by providing field coordination surge capacity. This will be available at the onset of Ebola outbreaks in other parts of the country should they occur. As of 2 April, the West Africa Ebola outbreak had infected more than 3,000 people and killed 2,320 in Guinea alone. On 28 March 2015, the President of Guinea declared a State of Emergency — one year into the epidemic.