SEATTLE — In 2014, West Africa was declared ground zero for the Ebola virus. The Ebola crisis in Guinea killed 2,544 people, then spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, killing 11,310 people in total.
The public health emergency was not terminated until March 29, 2016, making the outbreak the worst since the virus first emerged in 1976. Now the Ebola crisis in Guinea is over, but the risk of its return continues to fuel change.
The government of Guinea, in coordination with USAID, focuses on five areas of infrastructure that need to be strengthened. The fragility of the system caused slower response time, increasing the severity of the outbreak. These five areas are food security, health services and systems, innovation, governance and economic crisis mitigation and global health security.
- Food Security
The USAID Office of Food for Peace partnered with the United Nations World Food Program to provide food to people in quarantine, children affected by malnutrition and other emergency food needs. In total, 1.3 million people were given emergency food assistance since the beginning of the outbreak.
- Health Services and Systems
During the Ebola crisis, everyday health procedures such as treatment of common diseases and maternity care were drastically reduced, and people avoided seeking medical treatment out of fear. Through facility renovations, health care worker training and community engagement, USAID is rebuilding trust in health services and systems.
The Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge, started by President Obama, led to 14 innovations that helped West African healthcare professionals treat Ebola safely and effectively. These innovations helped connect more than 15,000 healthcare workers with national ministries and traced Ebola contact for more than 20,000 people.
- Governance and Economic Crisis Mitigation
USAID introduced the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening to reinforce the electoral process in Guinea, and is working to improve the authority of the Ministry of Health. In 2015, USAID supported a fair presidential election in Guinea and helped educate citizens about the voting process.
- Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA)
The GHSA, backed by the U.S. government, helps countries like Guinea detect infectious diseases quickly, respond appropriately and inform the public about the dangers of such diseases. In the event of another Ebola crisis in Guinea, the government should be able to respond faster and more effectively.
In December 2016, great strides were made to recover from the Ebola epidemic in Guinea. Studies showed that the Guinea Ebola vaccination trials, led by the World Health Organization, were successful. During a 2017 speech on the triumph over the Ebola crisis, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, “Scientists do not yet know exactly where in nature the Ebola virus hides between outbreaks, but nearly all experts agree that another outbreak is inevitable. When this occurs, the world will be far better prepared.”
– Madeline Boeding