Ebola in Guinea: A long road to recovery

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Children in Guinea whose schools are currently closed due to Ebola prepare for a TV broadcast to spread the message about the importance of hand-washing

Recently, I set off from Conakry on my way to Kankan, one of the areas of Guinea worst affected by the Ebola crisis.

I was excited to catch a glimpse of the vast expanse of beautiful countryside that I had heard so much about.

But it’s a 600km trip, and my enthusiasm had all but vanished some 14 hours later as I continued to be thrown around the back of our car.

 

A long, painful journey in search of care

However for most people here, even this sort of arduous journey is not an option.

Ebola has devastated the country’s infrastructure and unpaved roads or unfit vehicles (including ambulances) have become a huge impediment to relief efforts.

This is much worse than inconvenient: there are currently only two treatment centres for the whole country, and they are two days apart by road.

I have heard stories of Ebola victims travelling to a clinic on the back of a motorbike in order to shave a few hours off the journey – a terrible hardship for a grievously sick person, not to mention a huge risk of infection for the driver.

 

Ebola is affecting everyone

Nobody is exempt from this epidemic: children still haven’t returned to school, travel in and out of the country is extremely restricted, and unemployment (which was already rife) has shot up, as major contractors and employers continue to pull out of the country.

Everyone I meet tells me the same thing: everything has changed; life as they knew it has stopped.

Even simple daily activities now pose a risk: crowded markets, packed buses, daily prayers.

I’d never visited Guinea before it was hit by Ebola so it is hard for me to see the changes, but the subdued atmosphere is impossible to miss.

 

Many questions, few answers

In response we have been running training sessions with transport union employees to equip them with the knowledge to reduce the risk of Ebola on crowded buses. These sessions were extremely vigorous: people had so many questions, they were bursting with the need to know more.

Increasingly, people really want to understand how to stop this disease and get Guinea back on its feet.

What is clear is that the international response to Ebola in Guinea needs to grow faster, with more resources, personnel and expertise, if it is to have any chance of defeating this disease. It is well past time for the spotlight to turn on Guinea.

 

An urgent need

I was only further reminded of this as I woke a few days ago to the news that 21 patients had been admitted to one of the two treatment centres overnight, making a worrying total of 109 cases in just 6 days.

I can’t help but think of the journey the sick will have had to take on that terrible road, and what will happen to those who will turn up this morning to find this treatment centre now full.

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Comments

  • Lucy Aykroyd

    This is a tragic situation; unimaginable for the families involved. I am ever hopeful that thanks to your contribution Kate, us in the outside world will gain more understanding and feel increasingly empowered to add weight to the campaign in the form of personnel and resources. Well done and thank you for all your endeavors.

  • Gill Bishop

    Kate, Your experiences, views and descriptions of how Guinea is being hit and changed are unnerving to read, but we all need to know. Always too easy for us in the developed west to sit comfortably and do nothing but comment as the TV news images become normalised for us. At least we can give money and we must all do what we can as individuals to help conquer Ebola and help these people’s desperate daily living. You are a very brave and admirable young woman!!

  • Caroline Loder-Symonds

    We are so proud of what you are doing in Guinea to help families struck down with this frightening and rapidly spreading disease. There has been a wonderful early morning slot on radio 4 from a nurse working in the field in an affected area reporting in diary form of her experiences
    nursing Ebola patients day by day. Keep well and we send love to you. Caroline and Roddy.

  • Anne Forbes

    Dear Kate, Well done doing what you are doing and bringing all this to people’s attention. It must be so hard seeing the distress and the breakdown of infrastructure etc. Thinking of you muchly and praying for your safety through it all. Love from us both, Anne and Nick

  • Amber Poole

    Dear Kate,
    I am a friend of your mother’s and deeply affected by your contribution to a crisis of such disabling proportions. Thank you for your generous compassion and do keep safe. Sending my very best wishes. Amber

  • Penny Osborne

    Kate, I am so full of admiration for all you and your colleagues are doing. I pray you will be safe and will see a truly positive result of your efforts amongst the people of Guinea and surrounding countries. The problems are so widespread and there is so much to pray about. A friend is travelling today to organise logistics in Sierra Leone. Thank you for updating us, love and blessings. Penny

  • Raye Marcus

    Kate,
    I am a friend of Lucy and she has forwarded me this most moving and affecting blog. I too am full of admiration for what you are doing in Guinea and hope that this epidemic will soon be under control. You are doing wonderful work…. take good care of yourself.

  • Sending you our good wishes from Wiltshire Kate. Having watched a documentary on the Ebola situation in Sierra Leone this week, we know how vital the dissemination of practical information is in combating this. Your work and dedication is important. Take care dear girl. xx Joanna and Tim

  • You’re in my thoughts and prayers daily, so proud of you. Look forward to hearing more. I will be sharing your blog with friends I hope that’s ok with you let me know if not, we need to know the news from your unique viewpoint.
    Enjoy your break next week. Take great care of yourself.
    All love from the proudest Godmother in the world. Nxxx

  • Trish Fuller

    dear Kate… such courage! Blessings on you… you and your wonderful work are in so many people’s thoughts and hearts. May we open our hearts as widely to the people who are sick and have nothing. Take care Love and enormous respect to you from Trish x

  • Catherine Delamain

    Kate, so very well done for having the courage and enterprise to see at first hand the ravages that this horrible disease is causing – and for telling us a about it so movingly and vividly. Nobody who has read your story could be otherwise than touched to their very heart, and anxious to do anything possible to help. And well done too to your darling mother, who has to endure without complaining the worry of knowing you are in such dangerous places. With much love and blessings. Catherine