Preparing for disasters and epidemics

Red Cross volunteers reach out to the community in Guinea.

Red cross volunteers reach out to the local community in Guinea.

The British Red Cross worked closely with the Guinea Red Cross from 2015 to 2021, preparing for natural disasters, epidemic outbreaks and improving health among young mothers and babies.

The threat of Ebola

In February 2021, the latest Ebola outbreak was declared in Guinea in a rural area, close to the borders of Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. This came at a time when the country was already facing increased health, social and economic challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was the first outbreak since the Ebola crisis in 2014-2016, which killed 11,300 people across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It remains the world's worst recorded Ebola outbreak to date.  

With support from the British Red Cross and other humanitarian partners, the Guinea Red Cross responded rapidly, together with the national health authorities. The outbreak was quickly contained and declared over in June 2021.


Working with communities in Guinea

We know time and coordination is a vital to containing and preventing further spread of the Ebola virus. An effective track and trace system is needed to identify people who may have come into contact with someone infected with Ebola.

Early engagement with communities is also vital: communicating the risks and protective measures to take, including accessing vaccinations.

In 2021, the Guinea Red Cross drew on their experience and expertise from the previous outbreak, where they reached an incredible two million people with information and support.

Two thousand Guinean Red Cross volunteers worked in communities, disinfecting homes, teaching people how to protect themselves from infection, and conducting safe and dignified burials.

Red Cross staff and volunteers also provided services such as, contact tracing, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene support.

Better support for Guinean communities during disasters

Guinea is a country that is very exposed to a range of disasters. On top of Ebola outbreaks, the country is frequently faced with flooding, landslides, cholera epidemics and conflict.

The British Red Cross worked with the Guinea Red Cross to provide better support to communities affected by disasters. By training disaster response teams and giving them the right equipment, we helped them get ready to take immediate action when an emergency occurs.

We also collaborated on disaster plans in advance so that trained volunteers get to communities as soon as possible.

Preparing for disasters in this way means that people and communities are better protected and the impact of disasters will be less serious.

Healthy mothers and healthy babies

From 2015 to 2018, The British Red Cross also worked with the Guinea Red Cross to help mothers and babies stay healthy. We worked to increase knowledge of and access to reproductive health services in target communities, and to improve epidemic surveillance.

Guinea is one of the most difficult places to become a mum. For every 100,000 births, 650 mothers die during childbirth. This compares to just eight in the UK. Many babies also die at birth. For instance, while there are 65 infant deaths for every 1,000 babies born in Guinea, in the UK there are only four.

Even before the Ebola outbreaks, Guinea had a crumbling healthcare system, particularly in the countryside. Battling the Ebola outbreaks strained resources even further. 

On top of this, some women avoided the existing healthcare service as they were unaware of the kind of help on offer.

Trained health workers make a difference

The British Red Cross worked with the Guinean Red Cross to expand a successful project. This supported safe motherhood and sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights.

The project trained 87 health workers to provide better care for their patients, young and old. Another group of 92 health workers have learned how to help people understand why they should use health services in pregnancy and birth. They also visit people’s homes and run training sessions to teach people about their right to health care.

Safe delivery: innovative app supports healthy motherhood

Health workers also use an innovative ‘Safe delivery’ app developed by the Maternity Foundation. It helps train medical staff in how to deliver babies safely including medical advice for any issues that come up before, during and after a birth.

In addition, the app is a helpful guide for parents and anyone interested in getting a better understanding of pregnancy, birth and care after the delivery. Awareness sessions were organised with the community to help people talk about sexual and reproductive health rights.

The Red Cross also helped train 60 community leaders. The focus was to understand and mitigate the risks linked to sexual health and gender-based violence, and share with the wider community.

Meetings with 2,000 young people and their parents covered topics such as contraception, child marriage and people’s rights.