Ebola: Facing down fear to save lives in Guinea

تم النشر: 22 أبريل 2014 13:24 CET

Moustapha Diallo, IFRC

In Conakry, the capital of Guinea, everyone is frightened of the Ebola virus disease. It is the first time one of the most lethal viruses in the world has been detected in the country and stories are surfacing of people panicking, such as the time when passengers in a public transport vehicle abandoned the bus, in the middle of a traffic jam, when a pregnant woman inside, vomited.

“Most people remember a horror movie some years ago showing infected persons bleeding from the mouth and nose, and having violent seizures before dying,” explains Mariama Diallo, a volunteer with the Red Cross Society of Guinea. “Now with the Ebola outbreak, a virus they don’t know, some people are panicking, pulling their children from school and refusing to venture far from their homes.”

In collaboration with the Guinean Ministry of Health and other international aid agencies, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Red Cross Society of Guinea reacted swiftly to the outbreak by deploying its volunteers on the ground to raise awareness among communities on how people can protect themselves from becoming infected, and also to help alleviate fears.

“We teach people how to prevent the virus from spreading and to remain vigilant and practice good hygiene and sanitation, to wash their hands frequently with soap and chlorine,” explains Diallo. “We also inform them that Ebola is not an airborne disease and it can only be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or body secretions of someone who is infected.”

The result is that the panic in Conakry has started to ease.

“When you deal with something you are not familiar with, such as Ebola, you get scared. It’s a normal human reaction,” says Dr Alain Kapete, a member of the health team deployed by IFRC to support the Red Cross Society of Guinea.

“There were some volunteers who were scared at the beginning of the outbreak, but they braved that fear to save lives. When our communities are at risk, our role as volunteers is to assist them. That is our commitment,” adds Diallo.

In addition to sensitization activities, Red Cross volunteers are also involved in the disinfection of home and health facilities infected by the virus, the removal of dead bodies, and the monitoring of people who may have come into contact with infected persons.

The Red Cross has launched emergency and/or preparedness operations in six West African countries which have been affected by the Ebola virus disease outbreak (Guinea, Liberia), or are at risk of being affected (Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone). These operations are expected to reach up to 10 million people.