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Ebola: the Veolia Foundation in Guinea, alongside the Red Cross and MSF*, Fighting the Epidemic

At the request of the French government, the French Red Cross has recently opened a treatment center with 60 beds to fight the spread of the virus in the Macenta region in south east Guinea, to relieve the other centers in the country, which are already saturated.

The Red Cross was supported by the expertise of Doctors Without Borders for the supervision of the construction of the center and to train the personnel. They have also called on the Veolia foundation for the distribution of water, an essential part of the logistics for the center. 

The Veolia Foundation has a team of employees trained to intervene in emergency humanitarian missions, the “Veoliaforce”.  One of these experienced volunteers, Guillaume Cubizolles went out in the field.  He designed and constructed a complex system of 3 water networks with different chlorine levels for healthcare, cleaning and disinfection.
The Veolia foundation already advises the national water service of Guinea
In the context of a partnership agreement with Guinea, the Veolia foundation provides expertise to the personnel of the National water service. In the east of the country, initial adduction of drinking water underway will supply 7,000 inhabitants, thanks to the support of the Foundation. An existing project to train Guinean technical managers is expected to start in the first half of 2015.

* Médecins sans frontières / Doctors Without Borders


Interview of Guillaume Cubizolles :

Guillaume Cubizolles, aged 33, can boast 12 years of experience with Veolia and 10 years of volunteering for Veoliaforce, including several missions in China and Haiti. He spent three weeks in Macenta, at the heart of the epidemic. According to Guillaume:

Can you describe the context of your departure for Guinea for this operation?
Guillaume Cubizolles: As is always the case, when humanitarian action is required, it is required rapidly. Only 10 days went by between the initial phone call from the Foundation and my arrival in Guinea, just long enough to be briefed by the French Red Cross. I needed to understand both the priorities and the outline of the project, and become familiar with safety instructions.

You departed for an area affected by an epidemic which is receiving a lot of media attention…
G.C: I did not know any more about Ebola than the average person in the street. My training with the Red Cross was therefore very worthwhile. I found out that this disease is less contagious than many other diseases as it is not airborne. I learned which rules I needed to comply with in Guinea: no physical contact, only drink safe water. To cut a long story short, I learned to differentiate between media psychosis and actual danger.

You left to install a specific water network. Can you tell us how it went?
G.C: To begin with, working with the members of the Red Cross who I joined, we checked that our plans did indeed match the situation on the ground. In these types of circumstances, you need to forget everything you've learned in the past and deal with what is actually feasible here and now. The Red Cross managed to find tanks, pumps and hoses in the region, but some components had to be brought in from Conakry, the capital.
Days at the worksite could last from 8 o'clock in the morning to midnight. This was necessary because we needed to install three water networks, each with different chlorine concentrations, to cover all of the requirements of the Centre as defined by Doctors without Borders, the customer. The networks were commissioned the day before I left, mid-November, and the first patients were treated by the center shortly afterwards.

In terms of safety, which different stages apply when you enter an area with an epidemic?
G.C: The only instruction given is to take your temperature twice daily to detect any anomaly. But honestly, my only fear was to catch a cold and be feverish and automatically placed in quarantine when I knew that I hadn't taken any risks.