Before the deadly Ebola epidemic struck Guinea in 2014, Dubréka Hospital delivered scores of babies each month. But during the health crisis, its maternity ward emptied, with fewer than 10 women choosing to deliver their babies there.
Now the refurbished ward is full again, thanks in part to efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development and partner organizations to improve Guinea’s health system and restore public trust.
“In the last six months we’ve had over 500 births,” said Dr. Bakayoko Sekou, the hospital director, in a telephone interview.
Dubréka, a town of 8,000 people, now has emergency services it lacked before. The maternity and pediatric wards were renovated and better equipped, including air conditioning. “We’ve had a lot of training we couldn’t have had before,” said Sekou. “Confidence has been restored little by little.”
Guinea and West Africa had never experienced an Ebola outbreak before the first case in a distant village. The sole Ebola patient who came to Dubréka Hospital contaminated four others. Fear and distrust quickly spread, as the number of sick people grew elsewhere in the country. There were more than 3,300 confirmed cases in Guinea before the outbreak was stopped in 2016.
“The country is investing more in our health system now,” said Sekou. “Guinea as a whole wasn’t familiar with Ebola. It was a new thing for us. We really needed the support of outside partners … to help us overcome the disease.”
USAID has funded renovations of hospitals and clinics across the country. A partner, the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative, worked with Guinea’s Ministry of Health on a mass-media campaign touting a rigorous accreditation system that awarded the best hospitals an “Etoile d’Or,” or Gold Star.
“We were the only one of five hospitals in the region to win a Gold Star,” said Sekou.
Another partner, the International Medical Corps, worked with Guinean officials on community health-promotion initiatives to raise awareness about infectious diseases.
“The country is using the lessons learned during the response to the Ebola outbreak to build a preparedness and response capacity to better control any epidemic-prone disease — including Ebola — in the future,” says Dr. Rigo Fraterne Muhayangabo, a manager at International Medical Corps, a U.S.-based humanitarian organization.
Read more about this turnaround in this blog that USAID’s Mariama Keita wrote after her recent visit to Dubréka Hospital.