CONAKRY, Guinea - Awareness among local population has become central to containing Ebola as the disease continues to spread in parts of West Africa, says Plan International.
Plan said that people must be urgently made aware of public health measures they can take to protect themselves from the lethal virus.
Due to lack of appropriate information, rumors are rife in the affected areas further complicating the response by government and humanitarian agencies.
“We are racing against the deadly virus. Appropriate and timely information can save lives from Ebola,” said Adama Coulibaly, Plan’s Regional Director for West & Central Africa.
“There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola. But simple measures such as hand washing can contribute to stopping the infection and its spread. We must act fast by ensuring that correct information reaches communities across affected countries, without any further delay,” he added.
The Ebola hemorrhagic fever is among the most virulent diseases known to humankind. So far, 83 deaths have been recorded in Guinea, including fatalities in the capital Conakry. The disease has also spread to neighboring Liberia with one confirmed death due to Ebola.
In affected areas, communities have witnessed horrific scenes of people dying with signs of bloody vomit and severe bleeding. The severity of infection and associated symptoms, have also fuelled rumors as people are coming up with their own explanations behind sudden deaths.
“On Tuesday last week, everyone fled the local market in one of the towns as the news of Ebola spread. Some people are so frightened that they think that Ebola has already saturated the air they inhale,” said a local resident in Voinjama, the capital of Lofa County in Liberia which as recorded the highest number of suspected Ebola cases in Liberia so far.
“The affected countries are at the bottom of Human Development Index and already face severe challenges with their fragile health and sanitation systems. If Ebola continues to spread without active prevention it can easily overwhelm their coping capacities which are already stretched to their limits,” said Coulibaly.
Plan works with communities in Ebola-affected districts of both Guinea and Liberia and is responding to the epidemic. Plan is supporting the local authorities in logistics and dissemination of public health information. Schools and children are being particularly targeted.
“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, Plan’s emergency manager for West Africa.
Plan has already warned that the Ebola virus may become a regional health crisis endangering a vast population across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone given the geographical location of the outbreak. It is calling for a coordinated multi-country emergency response to tackle the situation.
Note to Editors: Plan experts in Conakry and staff on the ground are available for media interviews.
About Plan International USA
Plan International USA is part of the Plan International Federation, a global organization that works side by side with communities in 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children and their families. Plan works at the community level to develop customized solutions and ensure long-term sustainability. Our solutions are designed up-front to be owned by communities for generations to come and range from clean water and healthcare programs to education projects and child protection initiatives. For more information, please visit www.planusa.org.