Conakry — On Thursday, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) resumed activities in a treatment centre in Macenta, southeast Guinea, after it was forced to suspend work late last week following protests by a section of the local population.
"Several days of negotiations with local and regional authorities, youth leaders and village elders have ended successfully, and we have been assured that we can continue our work safely," said Corinne Benazech, MSF Head of Mission in Guinea.
Medical and technical support to Ministry of Health
Since the suspension of activities, the patients in the centre were treated by Ministry of Health staff, but now MSF is able to return and offer additional medical and technical support to the fight against the disease.
"We fully understand the fears of the local community. There had been no Ebola cases in Guinea before the current outbreak and seeing our workers in the protective dress must be quite shocking for people who are not used to it," said Benazech.
MSF has responded to a number of Ebola outbreaks over the last fifteen years and has experienced similar challenges in the past.
"We saw local protests in Uganda and Gabon when we responded to Ebola outbreaks there, and this is why local acceptance and understanding is key," said Benazech.
Activities in Conakry and Gueckedou
In addition to Macenta, MSF is currently caring for Ebola patients in a newly-expanded centre in the capital Conakry, as well as in Gueckedou, another location in the southeast of the country. There are currently four patients in the centre in Conakry, three in Macenta and three in Gueckedou.
"Ensuring that populations know about and understand the disease is key and we will continue our dialogue with all local communities where we work," said Benazech.
"However, there is clearly more work to be done and we need other health actors to undertake more of this activity as we are focused on identifying and caring for patients as well as tracing the people they have been in contact with."
An MSF team arrived Thursday in neighbouring Liberia to assist the Ministry of Health there following the confirmation of positive cases in the north of the country.