MEASURES to counter the spread of the Ebola virus, including a public health awareness campaign, are being implemented by The Salvation Army in Guinea. This follows a confirmed outbreak of the disease concentrated in Nzérékoré Prefecture in the rural south-east of the West African nation. The virus – which is highly transmissible – causes severe fever and haemorrhaging, and can often be fatal.
The Salvation Army is still working to establish an official presence in Guinea, but is nonetheless coordinating with the country’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to maximise the efficacy of its response. Following an initial assessment in Gouécké, Nzérékoré, conducted by a small team led by Captain Thomas Mbouabani, plans were developed to address the substantial needs evidenced.
‘Community members reported that they had received only a very limited supply of hygiene items and personal protective equipment,’ observed Captain Mbouabani, ‘and the little they had been able to access was already finished.’
To address this urgent requirement, The Salvation Army is distributing supplies of soap and hand sanitiser, as well as cleaning materials such as buckets and disinfectant, to around 200 families. With an average family group of five, that equates to approximately 1,000 recipients.
Addressing the wider issue of public health awareness, The Salvation Army is commencing a three-month Ebola prevention campaign. This will use posters and leaflets to share important messaging about the virus and how to improve hygiene in order to reduce the spread of the disease. The hygiene practices recommended in these materials will also be relevant to – and mitigate – the spread of COVID-19, which is also currently experiencing an upturn in the country.
Major Abraham Collins, Projects Secretary in neighbouring Liberia (which oversees the work in Guinea) recognises the importance of listening to community members and adapting the design of the initiative accordingly. ‘The Salvation Army will take a community-driven approach, engaging with community members as active participants rather than passive recipients of aid. We believe such engagement will increase resilience and independence, and enhance the success and sustainability of the programme.’