Saturday

19th Oct 2019

Hollande first EU leader to visit Ebola-hit Guinea

  • According to the World Health Organization, almost 16,000 people have been infected with the virus. (Photo: un.org)

French president Francois Hollande will visit Guinea on Friday (28 November), making him the first European head of state – even the first non-African leader – to visit one of the three Western African countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak.

The outbreak, which started in Guinea almost a year ago with the death of 2-year-old Emile Ouamouno, has claimed at least 5,689 lives.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 16,000 people have been infected with the virus.

The real death toll and number of infected people is likely to be much higher, since they “continue to be under-reported in this outbreak”, according to the WHO.

Almost all the cases and deaths occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WHO noted that reporting of cases is “stable” in Guinea, and “stable or declining” in Liberia, but it “may still be rising in Sierra Leone”, where in the week to Sunday (23 November), 385 new cases were confirmed.

On his one-day visit to Guinea, meant to send a “message of solidarity”, president Hollande will visit Donka hospital in the capital Conakry, where the French Pasteur Institute has set up a laboratory.

He will also meet and give a press conference with his Guinean counterpart Alpha Conde.

It is the first time a French president visits Guinea since 1999, according to France 24.

Earlier in November, EU commissioner Christos Stylianides, who was recently appointed as the bloc's Ebola "co-ordinator, visited the three outbreak countries.

After his visit, Stylianides said the need for medical staff in the region is urgent.

“More of them are needed and we must intensify our joint efforts to contain, control, treat and ultimately defeat this virus”, he said.

Meanwhile, in a case which shows how quickly the virus can spread, Ebola has also reached Mali, which borders Guinea to the north-east.

A Guinean imam with Ebola symptoms travelled from his native village Kouremale to the Malian capital Bamako for treatment on 25 October.

There, a 25-year-old nurse was infected with the virus, and died on 11 November. Less than two weeks later, the nurse's 23-year-old fiancee was also infected. She is currently in an Ebola treatment center in Bamako, set up last week.

Back in Kouremale, the funeral of the imam attracted thousands of mourners.

“Some of them touched the body as part of the traditional funeral ceremony”, the WHO reported, creating a risk of further contagion.

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