Ebola cases are starting to fall in Gueckedou, Guinea, as health messages make an impact, blogs Plan Programme Unit Manager, Gbaka Sandouno.
27 September 2014: The current situation in Gueckedou is not as alarming as it was 2 months ago. Out of the 49 Ebola confirmed patients presently at the treatment centre here, there are only 5 cases from Gueckedou, 39 from Macenta, 2 from Nzerekore, 2 from Kérouané and 1 from Beyla.
In Gueckedou, the cases are from 2 main communities – a few months ago 9 out of the 10 main communities were severely affected by Ebola. We are grateful to say that the situation is subsiding.
Youth group power
In fact, even the main challenges we were facing, such as hostilities from villagers, and their doubts over the existence of the virus, have been solved. Religious leaders, women’s associations and youth groups got involved, and have all helped in raising awareness about the virus.
Now, people are scared of catching Ebola. The proof is that all the usual handshaking, marriage ceremonies, intensive market attendance and social gatherings - which used to be part of life here - are now considerably reduced.
Whoever gets ill now in any part of Gueckedou, rural or urban, is left alone until the specialised health worker comes to take him or her to the nearest health centre. The Ebola hotline number 115, on a green card, is given to everyone close by, as soon as such a case is noted.
On the streets, life is relatively normal, although economic activities have been reduced due to the closure of the borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the limitations on movement of people from one community to the other.
Stores, garages and offices are operating relatively well. Besides hawkers, marketeers and other traders, you also see traffic running normally.
But children are affected, either by being infected, losing parents or being traced as contacts. The fragile food security provoked by Ebola is also having a negative effect on children, as is the postponement of their school classes.
Recovering from Ebola
I attend meetings every morning with Ebola-cured patients. I have not met all of them, but I know that the recovered patients of Gueckedou - about 42 now - have formed an association. The president of the association, who was the first patient to recover from the virus, is called Mr Saa Sabas Temessadouno.
These recovered patients play such an important role in convincing those who did not believe in the existence of Ebola that it does exist. Of course, they also convince the majority who think Ebola has no cure that they can recover from it. They are living proof that people can survive from Ebola!
The group has been doing local radio campaigns telling how they were infected, then how they were taken to the Ebola treatment centre and have survived. Because of this, a lot of Ebola patients now declare themselves and are willing to be at the centre, and we are noting a considerable number of patients who are recovering.
At the beginning, I was very careful about meeting Ebola patients, and very worried about the outcome, but due to information and training obtained on what Ebola is and how to avoid it, I feel that Ebola can be contained. The threat can be won, especially if the population as a whole works together.
Steps are being taken to prevent people from catching the virus. Training sessions organised by religious people, community leaders, teachers and staff of various international non-governmental organisations on Ebola, as well as intensive awareness-raising carried out through local radio, civil society organisations, children and youth groups - are all helping people to avoid catching the disease.
Taps and washing facilities installed in every public and some private areas are also helping. Avoiding traditional practices relating to burials, social gatherings and social movement are helping as well.
Health messages are getting through
In Gueckedou as a whole, every village has been reached as part of awareness-raising work and messages are being passed on to people all the time.
Health workers are now working closely with local authorities and all are now welcomed by the villagers. Even the hygiene kits that were rejected a few months back by villagers are now being requested by the same people!
It’s worth mentioning that although this situation has improved here in Gueckedou, in other prefectures like Macenta and Nzerekore, it remains a huge challenge.
From giving institutional support to the health authorities to raising awareness through radio or civil society, Plan International is actively involved in anti-Ebola efforts.
We are providing hand washing facilities in public places and helping to trace contacts, and helping to provide the necessary funds to make things happen.