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Why are we There?

  • Endemic/epidemic disease

Our Work


Outbreak of Ebola

  • On 22 March 2014, what was to become the largest recorded outbreak of Ebola was officially declared in Guinea.
  • Ebola broke out at the junction of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where people regularly move across the porous borders.
  • The deficiencies of the public health system in Guinea and the fact that early symptoms of Ebola are similar to malaria – a salient health threat in the country – led to misdiagnosis of infections early in the epidemic and allowed for the spread of the disease. 
  • Once the Ebola epidemic was declared, the malaria programme was put on hold as staff were reassigned to help the Médecins Sans Frontières emergency team build the first Ebola management centre (EMC) in Guéckédou. The malaria programme closed in August.
  • The EMC in Guéckédou opened on 23 March and served as the main centre for Ebola cases in the region, caring for patients, carrying out health promotion and outreach activities, and training medical and sanitation staff. 
  • To reinforce the activities of the EMC, Médecins Sans Frontières opened a transit centre in Macenta, Nzérékoré region, facilitating detection, triage and referral of patients coming from the southeast of Guinea. At the end of the year, the transit centre was converted into an EMC and handed over to the French Red Cross.
  • On 25 March, Médecins Sans Frontières opened an EMC within Donka hospital in Conakry, Guinea’s capital city.
  • The team conducted health promotion, educational and outreach activities, including identification of possible patients with Ebola, provided psychosocial support and trained medical and sanitation staff. 
  • In the absence of specific human treatments for Ebola, Médecins Sans Frontières partnered with the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) to trial an experimental treatment in the midst of an outbreak.
  • The drug tested in Guéckédou for efficacy against Ebola was favipiravir, an antiviral used in Japan to combat resistant flu in adults. Soon other sites, not managed by Médecins Sans Frontières, were also included in the favipiravir trial. More trials for treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tools were planned to start in the region early in 2015.


Ongoing challenges

  • In order to bring the Ebola outbreak under control, critical components of the response – such as surveillance, contact tracing, community mobilisation and infection control protocols – needed to be strengthened, and Médecins Sans Frontières continually asked for more support in 2014.
  • Many Guineans remain reticent to accept messages about Ebola, as the general level of knowledge about it is low.
  • Health workers, patients, contacts and survivors are often stigmatised and this prevents people from seeking medical help – such as those suffering from malaria, which has not receded as a health issue during the Ebola crisis.


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Médecins Sans Frontières has worked in the country since 1984 and at the end of 2014, Médecins Sans Frontières had 545 staff in Guinea.