PRESS RELEASE: Plan International raises concerns over girls’ safety in Guinea as Ebola resurfaces

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Guinea has officially declared an Ebola epidemic, after a number of deaths in the south of the country were linked to the virus

(CONAKRY, DUBLIN): The news that Guinea is facing the resurgence of the Ebola virus is hugely concerning, warns child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International.

Following the deaths of at least five people and in application of the International Health Regulations (IHR), the Guinean Government declared an epidemic of Ebola virus disease in the Nzérékoré prefecture, sub-prefecture of Gouecké,

The cases are linked to the burial of a nurse in Gouecké, near the Liberian border on 1st February.

During the previous Ebola epidemic, girls and young women were particularly hard hit, bearing the brunt of the loss of already precarious health services, community cohesion and basic needs such as food. Plan International is extremely concerned about the consequences of another epidemic.

Dualta Roughneen, Head of Programmes at Plan International Ireland, said: “Ebola devastated Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia only a few short years ago. The new outbreak in Guinea is of serious concern and the immediate need is to control and eliminate the virus as quickly as possible before we see a repeat of 2014 in order to save lives. This means ensuring the rapid scale-up of a medical response, but also controlling the onward spread of the virus. Just as we see here in Ireland in dealing with Covid-19, measures to control a viral outbreak can have a knock-on impact on the livelihoods which will be more devastating in a vulnerable country such as Guinea. However, these measures are vital to control a virus that has a 50% fatality.  

“The stark reality is that these necessary measures will have a disproportionate impact on girls and young women, as we have seen replicated globally throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Resultant school closures & other restrictive measures render girls even more at risk of gender-based violence. We saw sexual exploitation & adolescent pregnancy rise during the previous Ebola outbreak, as has been happening during the coronavirus pandemic. Girls are also less likely than their male counterparts to ever return to education.”

He continued: “Plan International Ireland will continue to work with our colleagues and partners in Guinea to mitigate the risks to children and young people, especially girls and young women, as much as possible. Our work in Guinea focuses on supporting limiting the virus spread while ensuring children have access to quality and inclusive education and this has continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Our goal is for children, especially girls, to be spared from the worst impacts of the new Ebola epidemic.”

Johnson Bien-Aimé, Plan International’s Country Director in Guinea, said: ’’We are very concerned about the resurgence of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Guinea, reporting five suspected deaths due to the epidemic in southern Guinea, one of our organization’s intervention zones.

“In 2014, when the first cases of Ebola were reported in the prefecture of Guéckédou, Plan International Guinea was at the forefront of the response. On this occasion, Plan International has reassured the Guinean Government that we are ready to help quickly contain the disease.’’

“Protection mechanisms at the community level should also be strengthened, livelihoods restored, and support provided to ensure community resilience.”