What are the needs?
Guinea may be rich in minerals, yet, it ranks among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Since the 1990s, Guinea has hosted up to half a million refugees from neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia, most of whom have now returned home. Furthermore, the country continues to be plagued by inter-ethnic violence and political instability.
The resource-strapped health authorities do their best to contain widespread epidemics and waterborne diseases. In 2014, the country was faced with the worst Ebola epidemic the world has ever seen, which originated in the south-eastern forested region of Guinea. Just two years earlier, a cross-border cholera outbreak affected the coastal region infecting 8 000 Guineans and leaving 100 dead. The following year, very high malnutrition rates were recorded in the eastern region of Kankan, bordering Mali. Suspicious deaths started back in December 2013, but the first case of Ebola was only confirmed in March 2014. More than 600 people have contracted the virus in the meantime, two thirds of whom have died.
How are we helping?
Following the outbreak of Ebola in March 2014, the EU provided €1.9 million to help contain the spread of the deadly virus and assist those affected in Guinea and its neighbouring countries. Funds were channelled through partner organisations to cover all priority actions. These included: clinical management from isolation of patients to psychosocial support, tracing of suspected cases, training and supplying of personal protective equipment for health workers, epidemiological surveillance and the provision of medical supplies and personnel, equipment and transport logistics. Community-based awareness raising initiativeswere also rolled out in order to help diminish the risk of the further spread of the virus. Moreover, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) deployed humanitarian experts and specialists in dangerous infectious on the ground, with a mobile laboratory unit to help accelerate diagnoses.
The EU has also been involved in the fight against previous epidemics such as meningitis, yellow fever and especially cholera at a regional level. As cholera is on the rise in West Africa where
100 000 people are affected each year, ECHO devised a regional strategy which was piloted in Guinea as of 2009 to support a so-called ‘shield & sword’ approach across the region. The approach consists of prevention measures, which are coupled with early detection, response and treatment. It also includes an investment in cross-border epidemiological surveillance and building the capacity of the health authorities. The reasonable success in curbing the 2012 cholera epidemic in Guinea is now serving as an example for similar cases elsewhere. Finally, ECHO plays an advisory role with regard to the attribution of EU funds aimed at preventing conflict related to competition for land and resources.