Ebola mobilization in Siruigi, Guinea

August 2014

The hour for mobilization has rung in the mining town of Siguiri which has been affected by Ebola. All parts of civil society have been called to help avoid the spread of the disease.

All parts of civil society have been called to help avoid the spread of the Ebola virus disease, Guinea.
WHO/L. Toure

Still wearing their hard hats, miners in the town of Siguiri have briefly taken time out from work. Gathered in small groups, either outside in the yard or on the shopfloor, they listen sombrely as workers from WHO and the local Red Cross give them information about Ebola virus disease that has claimed more than 300 lives in Guinea.

The mining town of Siguiri, situated near the Malian border approximately 800 km northeast of the capital city, is an active focus of Ebola virus disease. As of 5 August 2014, the local treatment centre that has been operational for several weeks had already recorded 6 cases: 4 confirmed cases and 2 deaths. A list has been drawn up of more than 140 people who have been in close contact with the infected patients and are likely to have been contaminated. This is a key measure for detecting carriers of the virus and halting the spread of the disease as quickly as possible.

Mobilization at all levels

Under the guidance of Guinean Red Cross teams, a number of awareness-raising activities are taking place . “We are concerned about this disease; panic has set in among our workers ever since the Government announced that the Ebola virus was present in our area,” says Dr Sylla Ansoumane, Director of the the biggest mining company in the region.

Nearly 1800 employees have already learnt how to recognize the dangers of the disease and how to protect themselves through rigorous hygiene practices. They have asked for hand-cleaning kits to be immediately installed at all entrances and exits as well as in the factory clinic. Security personnel have been tasked with enforcing sanitary controls and workplace hygiene regulations.

All components of civil society in Siguiri have been recruited to help spread the word about life-saving preventive measures. Radio announcers have also been informed about the various precautions so that they can relay the proper information as widely as possible.

Relaying preventive messages in mosques

Religious authorities, imams and priests have been instructed in proper practices for handling corpses and ensuring safe burials. Approximately 15 imams formed a deputation to the Prefectural Department of Education to convey their concerns. “When our Muslim faithful die from this disease, they are buried by the Red Cross without giving us the chance to pray for them,” says Hajji Moussa Kanté. But he was reassured by the explanations relayed to him.

“We can pray over our deceased, and provided we do not touch them, that is fine,” he acknowledges. The imams have pledged to act as spokespersons for the Red Cross in the city’s mosques.

Transport workers’ unions are also participating in this region-wide mobilization and will be kept regularly informed because the disease is also spread by the overland movement of persons who have been in contact with Ebola sufferers. It is the responsibility of transport workers to report any such journeys.

Protecting health workers

As well as helping with community mobilization, WHO is assessing the needs of on-site health workers in order to supply them with essential protective equipment. More than 20 physicians in Siguiri are on the list of persons in contact with Ebola sufferers, and therefore need to be monitored. Since the start of the epidemic in Guinea, 22 of the 30 or so physicians infected with the disease have died.

The Guinean authorities are redoubling their efforts to halt the progression of the disease and provide the population with much needed information, including in Maninka, the local language. All fronts are being mobilized and every Siguiri resident must be aware of the precautions that afford protection against the virus, thereby playing a key role in the nationwide mobilization effort.