Healthcare in Guinea
Guinea, officially the Republic of Guinea, is a Western African country located between Mali to the northeast and Sierra Leone to the southwest. With a population of 12.41 million and a total gross domestic product (GDP) equivalent to $11.4 billion, Guinea is one of the poorest nations in the world. Guinea’s poverty has limited its ability to develop the infrastructure necessary to sustain the health of its citizens. The people of Guinea have historically faced widespread public health risks such as malaria and Ebola. Infrastructural improvements resulting from domestic and global efforts are improving healthcare in Guinea.

The Problem: Lack of Healthcare Spending

As of 2018, Guinea’s per capita GDP of $920.80 amounted to only 7% of the world’s average. Within this figure, Guinea’s healthcare spending averaged the equivalent of $34 per capita. This minute healthcare budget has led to a variety of public health problems in Guinea, especially before 2014, such as:

  • Maternal & Under-5 Mortality: Guinea’s maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. Between 2006 and 2012, an average of 724 mothers passed away per every 100,000 live births. Guinea’s under-5 mortality rate is also a global stand-out. In the same time frame, an average of almost 120 children under the age of 5 passed away per every 1,000 births.
  • Malaria: Malaria has historically been troubling for Guinea, taking more lives annually than any other disease and ranking as the country’s top public health concern. The disease strains Guinea’s healthcare system and heavily contributes to its under-5 mortality rate. Malaria causes 31% of consultations, 25% of hospitalizations and 14% of hospital deaths of children under the age of 5.
  • Epidemic Risk: From 2014-2016, Guinea endured the worst of the Ebola epidemic. Originating in Guinea and spreading to nine other countries, reports determined there were a total of 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths. Guinea was ill-prepared to face this outbreak due to limited resources and is at even greater risk from faster and more infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Despite these issues, healthcare in Guinea is showing significant progress thanks to a combination of domestic and global efforts beginning in 2014. In the midst of the 2014 Ebola epidemic, the United States, alongside almost 30 other countries, co-initiated the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). The agenda focuses on struggling countries at high risk for infectious diseases like Guinea, equipping them with the resources to improve health systems by revitalizing their physical and organizational infrastructure. The GHSA would mark the beginning of a series of legislation to improve the capacity of Guinea’s healthcare system through infrastructure improvement. Here are the top three infrastructure changes for healthcare in Guinea.

 3 Infrastructure Changes for Healthcare in Guinea

  1. Emergency Operations Centers: The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) helped create a system of public health Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) in 2015. These centers successfully responded to yellow fever, anthrax and Lassa fever in Guinea. They also strengthened vaccination campaigns for polio, tetanus and measles.
  2. Health Commodities: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to increase the capacity of Guinea’s public health systems by providing resources such as health training, equipment and technical assistance to struggling communities. The USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program, launched in February 2017, has helped maintain a continuous supply of these commodities.
  3. Epidemic/Pandemic Preparedness: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aims to help communities prepare and respond to health crises such as epidemics and pandemics. In conjunction with USAID funding, the IFRC created the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) in 2017. This program strengthens the ability to prevent and address infectious diseases in Guinea and seven other countries. The infrastructure created through this program will continue to help in the preparation and response to such global crises as the COVID-19.

These global efforts have already proven effective. Guinea’s maternal mortality rate decreased from 724 per 100,000 births in 2006-2012 to 576 in 2017. Similarly, the under-5 mortality rate dropped from 120 per 1,000 births to about 100. 

While Guinea’s mortality rates may be decreasing and its healthcare improving, there is still much the country needs to do to attain a suitable healthcare system: even the country’s lower mortality rates are still among the highest in the world. Guinea must maintain and push forward global initiatives for better infrastructure for the sake of its livelihood.

– Asa Scott
Photo: Flickr

History of Ebola in Guinea
A rapidly spreading virus with a high fatality rate and no cure, Ebola was first recorded in Guinea in 2013 with the death of a local two-year-old boy. This marked the first outbreak of Ebola in all of West Africa. Since then, the highly fatal virus has been spreading throughout neighboring countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia, leaving a trail of death behind it.

History of Ebola in Guinea: A Look at the First Case

A two-year-old boy living in the remote village of Meliandou, Guinea, Emile Ouamouno is the first recorded case of Ebola in West Africa. According to the EMBO Molecular Medicine journal, researchers believe Ouamouno was playing with bats in a hollowed tree trunk when he contracted the virus. He died two days later after battling a fever, vomiting and black stool. His mother, sister and grandmother expired soon after. The deadly virus was spreading. In a span of four months, residents of Meliandou buried 14 people due to Ebola. By March, the virus had emerged in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. Panic began to set in around the globe.

Containment and Quarantine in Guinea

It wasn’t until months later that Ouamouno’s death was recognized as Ebola. On March 23, 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the outbreak in Guinea and reported that 49 people were already infected.

The same month, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde declared a 45-day national health emergency. In a national statement, Conde banned those who had contact with Ebola victims from leaving their homes and anyone who disregarded this measure was “a threat to the public and will face the might of the law.”

Transportation and travel came to a halt. Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids such as spit or blood and handling infected bodies can also lead to contraction of the virus. Border control in Guinea intensified and travel restrictions increased. However, none of this could stop animals that cross borders effortlessly, carrying the virus with them. The history of Ebola in Guinea continued to rage on.

The Illusion of Elimination

Heavily stigmatized by society, Ebola victims would often hide their illness and continue to interact with society. With an incubation period of up to three weeks, it is impossible to test positive for Ebola until symptoms show. By then, it might be too late. Villages quarantined themselves out of fear.

Others doubted the very existence of Ebola. A member of the Fula ethnic group had a different explanation. “This outbreak isn’t real. How could we be having Ebola here?” he said. “President Conde made it up because he’s trying to delay elections.”

Ebola continued to spread in 2014 with no end in sight, despite educational campaigns and international health workers. In fact, the health workers contributed to the conspiracy theories. Dressed in all yellow, moving stiffly and setting up quarantined tents where loved ones entered and never returned prompted fear in the locals. Some villagers began to spread rumors that the medical workers were harvesting organs and stealing limbs. The number of people willing to enter quarantine tapered off.

Reemergence of Ebola in Guinea

In late May, the last case of Ebola in Guinea was symptom-free for 21 days. President Conde announced, “for the moment, the situation is well in hand.” International medical workers began to depart the country and communities let out sighs of relief. At that moment, the nightmare was over.

In late July, a new patient was admitted. By the end of the month, dozens more from all over Guinea. The presence of Ebola in Guinea continued and was worse than ever.

The Deadliest Year

In 2014, more than 1,500 people died from Ebola in West Africa. Meliandou. This is where Ebola began in Guinea with the death of Emile Ouamouno, only to be isolated and ostracized from the national community. Surrounding villages refused to trade and vehicles were scared to enter the borders. In Meliandou, Ebola became less of a concern as people began to suffer hunger and poverty.

Free of Ebola

On December 29, 2014, Guinea was declared free of Ebola. However, Guinea was still in a state of heightened surveillance for the next three months. More than a year passed with Guinea recovering from the health emergency and mourning those who died.

In March 2016, two people in Guinea tested positive for Ebola. Fear began to creep up again in local communities. By March 22, 2016, more than 816 people in contact with the individuals had been quarantined and Liberia closed its borders with Guinea.

On April 1, 2016, an experimental vaccination was used on those with suspected contact with infected individuals. On April 5, 2016, it was reported that nine new cases of Ebola emerged in Guinea. Eight died. The WHO implemented a short incubation period and on June 1, 2016, declared Guinea free of Ebola. At last, the history of Ebola in Guinea came to a close.

Photo: Flickr

development projects in guineaWith an abundant range of humanitarian and economic issues, foreign aid and development projects in Guinea impact topics ranging from creating sustainable energy sources to fighting and preventing the spread of the Ebola virus. Here are five projects that have contributed to the improvement of Guinea.

  1. The installation of the Kaleta hydropower plant in May of 2015
    Located on the western African shore and home to over 12.6 million people, Guinea contains a large amount of potential energy through 12 main rivers. With only 26 percent of Guinea’s population living with electricity, the potential for hydroelectric energy to improve the country’s situation is huge. Many development projects in Guinea work toward creating accessible electricity, thereby strengthening the country’s ability to react to emergencies such as Ebola.
    According to USAID, in 2015, when Electricité de Guinée (EDG) began its management of the national grid with funding from the World Bank, one huge accomplishment was the installation of the Kaleta hydropower plant. The hydropower plant approximately doubled the output of electricity in Guinea and is beginning to meet the nation’s demand.
  2. China’s response to the Ebola outbreak
    The more access to electricity and communication that Guinea has, the more prepared and reactionary it can be to outbreaks like Ebola. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 11,310 Ebola-related deaths were confirmed in western African countries like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. With an insufficient number of medical supplies and personnel, patients were reported dying while waiting in line for treatment.
    One of several development projects in Guinea was driven by the Chinese government. The Chinese government gave over $4.5 million to West African countries, including Guinea, to fight the recent Ebola outbreak in 2014. China sent medical supplies as well as personnel to assist Guinea in treating patients. All efforts were directly coordinated with WHO as well as with the United Nations.
  3. StopPalu project
    Another disease that wreaks havoc on Guinea’s population is malaria. As a preventable and curable disease, malaria impacts large amounts of Guineans every year following the rainy season, according to USAID. While the disease is treatable, it can be very costly for poor families.
    Garambé, a town in Guinea, was plagued with malaria so frequently that people began accepting it as the norm. USAID’s program, the StopPalu project, aimed to strengthen malaria resistance by 50 percent by 2017, and began distributing 3.3 million insecticide-treated bed nets, proven to have drastically reduced the spreading of malaria, in 2013. According to Assietou Diallo, the head nurse at the Garambé health center, the usual 50 malaria patients per month has been reduced to under 10 patients thanks to preventative measures.
    StopPalu also has trained about 1,300 volunteer medical personnel to help identify and treat malaria. This measure helps patients in remote villages who cannot travel to medical centers.
  4. Girl-friendly school EAF (Aide et Action)
    Another issue that plagues Guinea is the severe lack of education for women and children. About 40 percent of children are out of school, and only about 30 percent of young girls are literate.
    One of the reasons that attendance in schools is so low in Guinea is because many children are tasked with taking care of domestic issues and tending to crops. Without a proper education, issues such as poor family planning and the spread of HIV/AIDS rise to the surface of Guinean societies.
    Girl-friendly school EAF, which lasted from 2014 to 2017, combated these issues by working to improve educational systems in Guinea. This project aimed to improve education in rural areas by training instructors on better methods of teaching as well as on how to remove obstacles that prevent girls from receiving their education. The Turing Foundation contributed €150,000 to this educational development project.
    Roughly one out of three children in Guinea are affected by malnutrition and suffer from growth stunts, according to UNICEF. However, several African countries have agreed to a program designed to use micro levies to fund the fight against malnutrition, UNITLIFE, agreeing to use their natural resources to provide nutritious food to hungry children. Adopted in 2015, the levies were predicted to produce $100 million to $200 million in one year.

These development projects in Guinea will pave the way for sustainable prosperity by giving citizens the opportunity to be healthy and well-educated.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr

USAID Building Trust After Ebola Outbreak in GuineaThe Ebola outbreak in Guinea began in 2014 and over the course of its run in two years, there were over 3,300 Ebola cases in Guinea. Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, known as Ebola, is a formerly serious, mostly fatal illness in humans. The virus is very contagious and is transmitted to humans from wild animals. The virus causes severe bleeding, organ failure, and often death.

In the midst of the epidemic, many of the citizens of Guinea were avoiding healthcare centers and hospitals in Guinea because of fear. The citizens feared the government because they were thought of as untrustworthy and the healthcare system had not been providing health services correctly. Another factor as to why people were not using health clinics and hospitals in Guinea was because of the denial that was present about the virus, as many did not regard Ebola as being a real issue and avoided seeking treatment for the disease.

After the hardships that Ebola left on the country, the stress prompted changes and restorations in the hospitals. The USAID teamed up with leaders and organizations in Guinea to guide the country and help them to recover from the virus. The USAID is aiding the country through renovations of hospitals, donating and replacing medical equipment and supplies, and rebuilding the trust in the Guinea healthcare system. The organization also started a ‘Gold Star Accreditation System‘, through a campaign alongside their partners which include the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative, Jhplego, and Guinea’s Ministry of health. The Gold Star Accreditation System puts a sign of a gold star on facilities to signify that it has passed a month-long accreditation process. This has helped citizens to rebuild their trust with hospitals and facilities.

Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr