CONAKRY Guinea said on Saturday it will reopen an Ebola clinic in its remote southeast as sick nationals living in Liberia and Sierra Leone spill over the borders in search of better treatment.
West Africa's Guinea, the first country in the region to be affected by the deadly virus which has killed more than 1,100 people, says it has brought the outbreak under control. But it is worried that a poor response to the epidemic from its neighbours will reverse its progress.
"We are concerned about the length of the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia, specifically in Macenta and Pamelap," said Sakoba Keita from Guinea's Health Ministry, referring to border towns.
"The Guineans who are over there and are infected are inclined to come back to Guinea for better treatment," he added, describing Liberia's health system as in a state of decay.
Four new suspected cases have been reported in Macenta in the Gueckedou region, within about 15 kilometres of the Liberian border, and Guinea is now preparing to reopen the Ebola clinic there, he added.
Highly contagious, Ebola kills more than half of those who catch it and causes fever, vomiting, haemorrhaging and organ failure. At least 380 people have died from Ebola in Guinea although the number of new cases on Aug. 12-13 is low at just 9 versus 116 in Liberia and 27 in Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.
The remote rural regions of Gueckedou along with Lofa in Liberia and Kenema in Sierra Leone are the regions where Ebola has struck hardest. The three governments have agreed to create a broad quarantine zone, with manned checkpoints, to control access, although some aid workers say people can slip in and out via jungle paths.
Liberia, where the number of cases is rising fastest, has said its health system is overwhelmed. Medical charity MSF says its Foya clinic in the neighbouring county of Lofa in Liberia has a 40-bed capacity with 137 patients.
Earlier this week the head of Guinea's Ebola commission said that 3,000 people were waiting at 17 border points for the green light to enter the country. Each has to be examined by a medical team and those with fever are isolated.
The World Food Programme says it plans to launch food deliveries to the area next week as part of a plan to provide emergency supplies to the more than 1 million people living within the area.
"The idea is to avoid finding ourselves in one month's time with a food crisis as well as a health crisis," said Fabienne Pompey, a WFP spokeswoman said on Saturday.
(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing and additional reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Stephen Powell)