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Fear and frustration as Guinea struggles to contain Ebola outbreak PDF Print E-mail
Diaspora News
Friday, 04 April 2014 08:31

Virus has claimed 84 lives and jumped borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia, raising concerns that it could sweep across region. Late last month, villagers in Guinea's remote south-eastern region of Nzérékoré were greeted by a sight so alarming that many barricaded themselves indoors. A group of doctors dressed in protective suits and helmets were visiting the centre of an Ebola epidemic that has raged for six weeks.

"People were running away from the doctors who looked like cosmonauts on their way back from the moon. We have never seen anything like it. Some locked their doors, others hid themselves. It was frightening because there were all kinds of rumours about how this disease was spreading," said Bah Mamadou, a taxi driver.

It took two more days before his neighbours began to open their doors. Such reactions highlight the uphill battle facing officials and medics as they attempt to contain one of the world's rarest and most lethal viruses, which has claimed 84 lives in the outbreak and jumped borders to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Mali.

International organisations fear it could sweep across a region with weak public health services. "Prevention is the only way to contain the Ebola spread and we are desperately trying to get the message across. Posters, leaflets, radio, text messages and TV spots – we are resorting to every possible method to reach communities far and wide," said Berenger Berehoudougou, west Africa director of the aid organisation Plan International.

Officials from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention travelled to Guinea this week to offer help, after a scare in Canada when a citizen returning from Liberia fell ill and was initially thought to have been infected.

There have been five suspected Ebola fatalities in Sierra Leone. In Liberia, where a state of emergency has closed the border with Guinea, the government said this week that the latest of its nine victims had no known links to Guinea. "We have a case in Tapeta where a hunter who has not had any contact with anyone coming from Guinea got sick," the chief medical officer, Bernice Dahn, told AFP. "He was rushed to the hospital and died 30 minutes later. He never had any interaction with someone suspected to be a carrier of the virus and he has never gone to Guinea. This an a isolated case."

Described by virologists as a "molecular shark", Ebola is passed on through bodily fluids and causes extensive internal and external bleeding. The fruit bat, a delicacy in Guinea and Liberia, is a host of the virus. The World Health Organisation believes that the virus spread from Guinea's forested regions to the densely populated capital, Conakry, through one man who travelled 200 miles from the central town of Dobala.

"Unfortunately, this one person infected both family members and healthcare workers when he went to Conakry for medical attention and died," said a WHO spokesman, Gregory Hartl. Six of the man's relatives and two other people exposed to him are being kept in isolation at a hospital.

Already struggling with a measles epidemic that has infected 1,500 people since November, Guinea's health system – which ranked last in a 2011 World Bank study of beds per capita – has struggled to cope with the outbreak. Although Guinea is the world's top exporter of bauxite, mineral riches have failed to translate into prosperity. The government – recovering from almost five decades of dictatorship – took more than a month to identify the epidemic, which appeared in early February. The Brazilian mining firm Vale has pulled its international staff from the country.

The latest infections have been passed on among family members or carers, said Sakouba Keita, a health ministry official. In one case, 10 people in one family died. "A lot of people are fleeing towns once they have any sign of a fever or headache. That's where we are psychologically today."

He said the government had a list of affected families and was placing them under 21 days' quarantine. "We also have to deal with a situation where people are using very crowded public transport from the interior to reach hospitals here. We're trying to make sure everybody hears the basic steps they can take to prevent the situation escalating," Keita said. Plan International said a co-ordinated multicountry emergency response was needed.

Last week the Senegalese music star Youssou N'Dour cancelled a concert in Conakry, fearing that a large crowd could spread the disease. Senegal's borders remain closed. Moussa Cissé, a rice trader in Senegal's southern town of Kédougou, said: "It has made things a bit difficult for us here because the weekly markets in [frontier towns] have completely shut down. People are just staying at home and trying to make ends meet."

Other countries have put in place preventive measures. Morocco has implemented strict travel controls, and Saudi Arabia has suspended visas for an estimated 10,000 Muslim pilgrims from Guinea and Liberia. Dauda Souaré, who organises Mecca pilgrimages from Conakry, said: "It's really a massive disappointment to be placed under this kind of collective measure."{jcomments on}

 

Editorial

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The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

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However, the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on corporate image is immense, even for tax collecting bodies. The perception that tax collectors are monsters vigorously bent on collecting people's earnings with no care for the environment or the vulnerable in the community they operate is evolving. Indeed, many revenue authorities in Africa are today socially responsible.

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In Nigeria, seven journalists were arrested and detained during the period. In Cote d’Ivoire, six journalists were arrested and detained in a single incident while one journalist each was affected in Guinea and Togo, bringing the total number of journalists affected to 15. In respect of the other media workers, nine staff of a newspaper printing firm were arrested in single incident. In Cote d’Ivoire, six technicians working with the state-owned television station were also arrested in a single incident.

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With some diamonds said to have been smuggled out of the country by the minister, the incident happened at a time when the rebel war was raging and the key perpetrators- the RUF were also seriously involved in illicit mining and smuggling. The minister was later jailed in 2003 for two years for illegal possession of diamonds.

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While the tension between the two had been lingering several years,Mr. Mansaray decided to report the matter to the Board in Freetown when he got information that Madam Marian Kamara was planning to sell theproperty.   The owner of the property who is the sister of both parties had died over a decade ago without leaving a will.

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The Legal Aid Defence Counsel Hadiru Daboh secured the discharge after drawing the court’s attention to the failure of the complainant to attend court sittings for seven consecutive adjournments. What’s more, the complainant has not furnished the court with any reasons for his absence. Magistrate I.S. Bangura agreed with the Defence Counsel and discharged the matter. He noted that discharge would not stop the prosecution from reinstating the matter in future.

The accused, Alpha Kanuwho plied his trade as driver and apprentice at the Wilberforce lorry park got involved in a fight with his boss Michael Aruna in February 2017. He was arrested and taken to the Congo Cross Police station following a complaint by his boss. According to Alpha Kanu, his injuries were ignored by the police even though they were more serious. He spent fifteen days at the Congo police station before the matter was charged to court.

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The “Obangame Express”exercise will be based on realistic modern-day scenarios such as piracy, illegal fishing and hijacking.  During the exercise,Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) will be challenged to recognize illicit acts and share trackinginformation with other MOCs throughout the region.

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