CONAKRY - Guinea marks its 56th year of independence Thursday and for the first time, there will be no official celebration. The government has postponed all public gatherings due to the threat of Ebola. President Alpha Conde highlighted the economic impact of the epidemic in his anniversary address to the nation.
President Alpha Conde said Ebola arrived as Guinea was making real progress, what he said was “double-digit” economic growth.
Conde pointed to what he called the “sacrifices” Guineans have been making to reduce inflation, improvements in agriculture and the return of foreign investment - including the signing of important mining contracts.
He said this painful health situation has considerably reduced our economic activities and hurt our public finances. He said hotels were sitting empty. He said every time the country has been faced with a situation like this, Guineans have been able to come together and put national interests above all else.
This regional Ebola outbreak started in southeastern Guinea in December. There continues to be resistance and attacks on health workers in that area.
Overall, the disease has infected more than 1,100 people in Guinea and killed more than 700, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.
President Conde appealed to Guineans to believe in the Ebola threat. Ebola was real, he said. He warned against panic and rumors.
He said if treatment was done on time, if patients reported earlier to the health centers, they could survive. He said cooperation with the ongoing awareness campaign was crucial. He said the tragic incident which took place in the town of Wome, during which eight people working to educate people on Ebola were killed, would not go unpunished and all the culprits would face justice.
Several airlines have stopped flights to Conakry, and countries like Senegal have shut their borders to Guinea. Those measures have hurt the country's economy and impeded aid efforts.
President Conde said he remained in contact with neighboring states and continued to call on the world to “isolate Ebola and not the countries.”