December 2014 marked one year since a two year old boy in Méliando, a remote village in Gueckedou, Forest Guinea, died after falling ill with a mysterious illness. An illness that the World Health Organization later identified it as the first case of Ebola in West Africa.
In the year that has followed, despite the efforts of the country itself and of aid organisations, the epidemic is not yet under control. Resulting in more districts reporting new cases, resistance from the population and the highest fatality rate of the three main affected countries. Today, one of the biggest barriers to stop Ebola continues to be fear, superstition and violence from a population that does not understand what has hit it.
Since November 2014, a large number of cases have been reported from districts in the northeast and southeast of the country. In one December week, Guinea experienced the highest number of cases in any given week to date. John Roche, Irish Red Cross Head of International Programmes, stressed the need for more resources, “Without adequate numbers of beds, Ebola patients are forced to travel great distances for care. As the virus spreads, so too does the need for logistical and technical expertise in multiple locations, placing a great demand on resources.” From a disease control perspective, it is easier to manage a very high case load in one area, than it is to control fewer but more dispersed cases. This is currently the major challenge faced by the Red Cross.
Fighting the disease in Guinea requires a localised response to numerous localised epidemics. The Red Cross is still one of the few organisations on the ground reaching all corners of the country. Roughly 2,000 trained volunteers are responding to the Ebola crisis in Guinea, working in remote villages and communities.
Red Cross volunteers come from affected communities. They know the language, the culture, the belief system, and perhaps most importantly, they know their neighbours and their neighbours know them. They have established a trust after years of volunteering with the Red Cross through conflict, and cholera epidemics. “These responders are committed to getting the job done, however, with insufficient resources, their hands are tied in what they are able to accomplish”, added Mr Roche.
The Irish Red Cross emergency Ebola appeal supports the work of staff and volunteers in all Ebola affected countries. Ensuring the Red Cross can reach as many vulnerable communities as possible. Helping to stop the spread of Ebola and prevent further suffering.