Conakry, Guinea—When the Ebola outbreak was first detected in the Boké prefecture of Guinea earlier this year, Kadiatou Diallo felt immense fear. She had worked as a young nurse in a rural health center in Kolaboui, located approximately 18 miles from downtown Boké. And she had witnessed how few of the mothers and children who came to see her for vaccinations at the health center washed their hands correctly. As Ebola cases continued to appear in the Boké district, Diallo felt keenly aware not only of her own risk of infection as a health care worker, but also of her lack of knowledge in managing exposure to blood and body fluids.
After Diallo attended a five-day infection prevention course conducted by Jhpiego, her fear dissipated. With financial support from the Alcoa Foundation, the high-impact training—designed to prevent the transmission of highly infectious diseases among health care workers—covered 10 essential topics, including an overview of Ebola and similar diseases and best practices to protect health care providers and clients, whether in a health facility or the community.
“When I participated in the training organized by Jhpiego, I felt confident and no longer afraid of contamination because I knew the infection prevention and control standard precautions, the golden rules for handwashing with soap and water, waste management, the preparation of different chlorinated solutions for decontamination and washing hands, as well as wearing gloves,” said Diallo.
The World Health Organization recommends the following protocol for health workers and facilities during an Ebola outbreak: handwashing with 0.05% chlorinated solution or water and soap; and decontamination of instruments with a 0.5% chlorine solution.
Motivated by the training course, Diallo also initiated the handwashing practices at home and educated her children about the importance of preventing transmission of diseases. Guinea, one of the West African countries first affected by the Ebola outbreak in late 2013, recorded new cases of the disease as recently as the end of October 2015, according to an Ebola Situation Report from the World Health Organization.
The country has been burdened by more than 3,800 cases of Ebola and over 2,500 deaths from the disease. Other infectious diseases, such as HIV, malaria and pneumonia, also contributed to illness during this time. Health care workers were particularly vulnerable—100 health care providers in Guinea died from the Ebola virus disease.
Jhpiego’s approach since the outset of the Ebola crisis has been to strengthen health systems so they can respond to an immediate need and any future outbreaks and restore maternal and newborn health services that were adversely affected by the outbreak. Recognizing the ongoing risks to health care providers, the government of Guinea prioritized updating health care workers and staff with standards and skills in infection prevention and control (IPC) practices. This work, which has been supported by the World Health Organization and the United States Agency for International Development’s flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program, has helped reduce the risk of infection to health care workers and their clients.
Since December 2014, the Jhpiego team in Guinea has led instruction in comprehensive IPC practices and approaches for more than 5,500 nurses, midwives, physicians and support staff from 150 health facilities, including 44 private facilities. By the end of December, an additional 1,085 health care providers will have been trained in IPC through Jhpiego’s work.
Fatoumata Binta Barry, a midwife at the Kassopo Health Center in Boké, was eager to participate in this new round of IPC training. During the Ebola outbreak, she observed firsthand significantly fewer clients seeking health care services.
Barry oversees deliveries, antenatal care visits, activities related to prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and family planning for women of childbearing age. “I benefited from a Jhpiego training on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in 2013 that included some infection prevention concepts,” said Barry. “These concepts helped me to protect myself and women attending my center. This new infection prevention and control training offered by the organization reinforces even further my knowledge and improves my work methods to protect my clients against infections, including Ebola.”
As an alumna of the Jhpiego-led training and an IPC trainer, coach and mentor working in health facilities, Barry can attest to the training’s impact among colleagues and within the surrounding community.
“The Kassopo Health Center and its health care providers are now better prepared to face infectious diseases than before the training,” she said. “The communities are very appreciative of this initiative and the cleanliness of the health center.”