Ebola flare-up: WFP responds. Focus on logistics

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Photo: emergency tents set up as soon as new Ebola flare-up occurs so that medical teams in remote areas can tend to the people wgho have been affected. © WFP/Guinea.

With the Ebola flare-up in March, the Government of Guinea and its partners have reactivated the emergency response mechanism to contain the disease. While the primary Ebola response is medical, logistics services provided by WFP including storage and transportation play a crucial role by allowing health workers and medical supplies to reach the patients on time. WFP has also set up emergency sites in remote areas of the country so that medical teams and humanitarian responders can tend to those in need. Apart from logistical support, WFP is providing food to 1100 people affected by the recent flare-up, and to their families.

Koropara, Forest Guinea: Jonas Boolamou remembers exactly the day he was relieved after two weeks of sleepless nights. It was on a Thursday morning. Boolamou came to see his 11-year-old daughter, Tonhon Boolamou, hospitalized in the Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Nzerekore, Forest Guinea’s Regional capital.

As he entered the safe area of the most feared health center in the region, a medical officer welcomed him with a big smile and the greatest news of the day: Tonhon is free from Ebola!

Boolamou could not believe his ears. “It sounded like a dream. It looked like my daughter was born again to me,” Boolamou recalled. “I was so happy, so excited to have her back.”

The young girl got infected by the deadly virus disease in Koropara, 80 km north of Nzerekore in late March 2016. Like many people in his village, Boolamou thought Ebola cannot be cured. But his daughter who survived the disease turned that myth and many others down.

“I heard people saying that when you enter the Ebola treatment center, they [doctors] withdraw all your blood from your body. But this is completely wrong!” she said. “I was there but they treated me very well; they gave me medicines and all sort of food any time I needed it. They were so kind to me. So I believe any sick person who goes there can be cured and come back safe just like me,” she says.

New flare-up

Since the new flare-up in March, eight Ebola cases have been confirmed in Forest Guinea. The government and its partners are currently busy trying to contain the disease. WFP supports their efforts by providing logistics services and delivering lifesaving food assistance to meet the basic food and nutrition needs of Ebola-affected families and communities.

According to Boolamou, the key to surviving the deadly disease is timely diagnosis and provision of health care. “Whenever you don’t feel well, rush to the hospital with the disease; do not wait for the disease to rush you to hospital,” he said.

Time is indeed crucial not only for patients but also for health workers who have to travel long distances with time-sensitive medicines and blood samples. The epicenter of the disease is more than 1,000 km away from Conakry, Guinea’s capital city where most of the organizations are based. In the absence of in-country commercial flights, this requires two days of journey by road.

Thanks to the WFP-managed United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), this journey is now reduced to one hour and half rendering it possible for health partners to deploy their teams on time, transport blood samples for testing, supply vaccines, medicines and equipment six days a week.

For the Deputy Representative of World Health Organization (WHO) in Guinea, Dr Mamoudou H. Djingarey, UNHAS plays a fundamental role in the fight against Ebola. Thanks to its regular flights, WHO teams are rapidly deployed to carry out awareness raising campaigns, monitor suspected contacts, conduct safe and dignified burials and all sort of activities required to contain the spread of the disease.

“We wish that WFP continues to provide this service so we can always respond in time and save lives,” he said.

As Tonhon, one of thousands of girls supported by WFP in Guinea, is welcomed home with songs and dances Boolamou says he is grateful to the people and organizations who have helped her get back on her feet.

Author: Djaounsede Pardon Madjiangar
Djaounsede P. Madjiangar is WFP’s Communications Officer in Guinea.