In the face of an ebola outbreak that has already left at least three children dead in Guinea, UNICEF immediately rushed five tonnes of aid, including medical supplies, to the most affected areas.
At least 59 out of 80 who contracted ebola across the West African country have died so far. Over the past few days, the deadly haemorrhagic fever has quickly spread from the communities of Macenta, Guéckédou, and Kissidougou to the capital, Conakry.
“Ebola is an extremely serious disease and UNICEF has taken immediate action to reduce the risks for children. In Guinea, a country with a weak medical infrastructure, an outbreak like this can be devastating,” said UNICEF Representative in Guinea, Dr. Mohamed Ag Ayoya. “UNICEF has prepositioned supplies and stepped up communication on the ground to inform and sensitize medical staff and the population on how to avoid contracting ebola.”
In collaboration with the Guinean Ministry of Health, UNICEF moved swiftly to send five tonnes of medicines, medical devices and emergency equipment such as protective gloves, tarpaulins, plastic mats, and intravenous and oral rehydration solutions to protect medical staff and to treat the sick.
Last week, when the first signs started to appear, UNICEF distributed 50,000 pieces of soap, 1,000 bottles of sodium solution for rehydration, 5,500 chlorine bottles, 5,000 packets of oral rehydration salts and powdered chlorine, to medical workers in the affected areas. This outbreak is particularly devastating because medical staff are among the first victims, so far it has killed at least eight health workers who have been in contact with infected patients---hindering the response and threatening normal care in a country already lacking in medical personnel.
Additionally, UNICEF has distributed information about how to avoid contracting viruses through posters and leaflets including information on hand washing with soap as well as water treatment with chlorine at home. UNICEF has also provided materials for the disinfection of health centres and homes of those infected.
“Already we know that caregivers urgently need protective equipment such as hats, masks, goggles, gloves, boots, aprons, and other material such as coats, disinfectant sprays, and, sadly, body bags,” said the UNICEF Representative. He asked medical workers to keep themselves up-to-date with the latest information and to strengthen their cleaning and sanitation regimens. UNICEF also urged the people of Guinea to be especially vigilant and practice good hygiene and sanitation. “Avoid contact with the sick and the dead. Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently. Always keep food covered. Avoid attending funerals whenever possible.”
The ebola fever spreads by contact with infected people or animals. In addition to ebola, UNICEF is working with the Government to address three other epidemics: cholera, measles, and meningitis that have put further strain on the health system of Guinea. UNICEF urgently calls on its partners in the international community to make funds available to provide life-saving supplies and logistical support crucially needed now to stop ebola and these other three epidemics.
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