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Ebola: the Red Cross steps up its response to fears of regional spread

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Red Cross teams in Guinea and across West Africa are stepping up response efforts to contain a deadly Ebola outbreak.

Red Cross volunteers and staff from Guinea, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone have stepped up their surveillance and community outreach efforts. To support these rescue activities, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an international emergency appeal for 8.5 million Swiss francs.

Mohammed Mukhier, regional director of the International Federation for Africa, said:

“Ebola doesn’t care about borders. Close social, cultural and economic ties between communities in Guinea and neighboring countries create a very serious risk of the virus spreading in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, and potentially even beyond.

“This is why we are launching an integrated cross-border operation aimed at quickly containing the epidemic in its current location and quickly containing any possible epidemic beyond Guinea.”

In Guinea, the Red Cross teams in N’zérékoré were mobilized to carry out burials in the safety and dignity of two people killed by Ebola. They also disinfected a local hospital and started efforts to sensitize the community to the return of the disease in the urban areas of N’Zérékoré and Gouécké.

An estimated 1.3 million people live in the health zone affected by the epidemic. The Guinean Red Cross and IFRC plan aims to support approximately 420,000 of them with a range of services, including community outreach, community surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene, safe and dignified burials, infection prevention and control, and psychosocial support.

In neighboring countries, the actions of the Red Cross will target an additional 6 million people. In Sierra Leone, a network of 200 Red Cross volunteers in Kambia and Kailahun are now on alert and carrying out surveillance activities. In addition, an alert has been sent to the four other districts (Kono, Koinadugu, Western Area and Pujehun) bordering Guinea and Liberia, where an additional 100 volunteers are preparing social community awareness activities.

In Liberia, in areas along the borders with Guinea, Red Cross volunteers are on alert and are currently carrying out awareness-raising actions in communities. The areas most at risk are Bong, Lofa, Nimba, Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties. The Liberian Red Cross will send personal protective equipment to the region.

In Mali, Red Cross teams will provide services such as surveillance and community outreach. The Senegalese Red Cross is stepping up surveillance efforts at border points, while intensifying community awareness activities.

In addition to implementing community response, surveillance and outreach activities, Red Cross teams are also concerned about the needs created by localized efforts to limit movement in order to contain the epidemic. As a result of these public health measures, people near the epicenter already need water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as food assistance.

Mukhier of the International Federation said: “This epidemic is likely to complicate an already difficult situation. The COVID-related containment measures currently being implemented have exacerbated food insecurity in the region, which may lead communities to be reluctant to comply with the new preventive measures put in place to contain Ebola.

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