Curfew and airport closure hamper emergency care in Guinea

"We are worried about the 1,200 regular patients in our HIV-Aids project," adds Martin. "They come to our centres regularly to receive medical assistance and free antiretroviral drugs. But the current insecurity and the curfew are preventing them from coming to us and they may not be able to stick to their treatment. The consequences on their health could be serious." Brussels/Conakry - Since Saturday, Feb 10, the international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has treated around 80 people who were injured during demonstrations and fighting in Conakry and Gueckedou. The majority of them were wounded by stray bullets.

Before the weekend, after learning about plans for new demonstrations, MSF prepared for the possibility that emergency medical assistance would be needed. The team set up facilities in the Matam health centre in Conakry and in the hospital in Gueckedou, where MSF is running two HIV/AIDS programs.

The Matam health centre already had an emergency unit in place. MSF set up two extra tents to increase the capacity for treating injuries. Five additional medical staff arrived in support of the team. Those with relatively light injuries are treated in this health centre. People with more serious wounds are referred to Donka hospital which has capacity for more complex surgery.

"In Matam, over 24 hours we received more than 47 people (with gunshot wounds)," said Sergio Martin, MSF Head of Mission in Guinea. "Now we are particularly worried about the effects of the martial law that has been declared and which includes a curfew that allows movements only between 4pm and 8pm.

"How are we supposed to transport patients that need specialist treatment if we are not allowed to move between health facilities? We are trying to get an exemption, but up till now none has been granted."

Yesterday demonstrations paired with violence also started in the town of Gueckedou, close to the Liberian border. In the afternoon seven wounded arrived at the local hospital.

It is not the first time that MSF has had to boost emergency medical services in Conakry. Less than a month ago, during a first wave of demonstrations, MSF supplied the Matam health centre with two surgical kits, each for treatment of 150 injuries, materials for dressing another 200 wounds and supplies for treating 160 burn injuries.

"We are worried about the 1,200 regular patients in our HIV-Aids project," added Martin. "They come to our centres regularly to receive medical assistance and free antiretroviral drugs. But the current insecurity and the curfew are preventing them from coming to us and they may not be able to stick to their treatment. The consequences on their health could be serious."

The airport in Conakry has been closed since the weekend, making it virtually impossible for humanitarian organisations to get emergency staff and supplies into Guinea.