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Ebola, Guinea and ChildFund

Ebola has infected an estimated 4,300 people in Africa, and killed more than 2,400 people, according to the World Health Organisation. The spread of Ebola remains most serious in Liberia, where there have been the most deaths.

Also affected are Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Senegal reported its first Ebola case in the end of August, and officials in The Gambia are keeping close watch for cases, although none have been reported.

In Guinea, the situation appears to be stabilising. As part of its strategy to fight the deadly Ebola virus, ChildFund Guinea identified and engaged community leaders to convey information to the public in three of Guinea’s affected communities.

These 108 leaders include imams, priests, a pastor, traditional healers and hunters, all of whom are respected and have influence within their communities. In March, as the outbreak began, ChildFund Guinea’s office held training workshops on conducting outreach campaigns, as well as identifying and referring people with suspected cases of Ebola to health facilities.

As a result, community members have received important information about good hygiene and preventive measures from people they know and trust. The training has concluded, but information sharing continues through local groups and one-on-one discussions at Guineans` homes and houses of worship.

To date, 35 traditional healers (10 in Kindia and 25 in Dabola) and 28 hunters involved in the project are actively continuing the efforts to contain the spread of Ebola in Guinea. These men are part of indigenous groups, who are trusted as caregivers of the land and of people. Because of their roles and influence, healers and hunters are critical to public awareness efforts.

This community-centred approach has created widespread trust and increased public support for the use of preventive measures.

The outreach campaign has yielded concrete results, with three people suspected of having the virus referred to the Regional Hospital of Dabola. Unfortunately, these three patients did die a few days later but this intervention helped prevent the further spread of the virus.

Since the end of March, no new cases have been reported in any of the communities where ChildFund works in Guinea. Nevertheless, community members continue to be vigilant and prepared to take action if they see anyone who has a suspected case of Ebola.

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