19 February 2021

No time to wait: The UN teams' proactive response to the Ebola outbreak in southeastern Guinea

Less than 24 hours after the outbreak was officially declared, the United Nations team in Guinea took action. The team immediately boarded a plane and headed on a mission to assess the situation in Nzérékoré, in Southeastern Guinea, where the first Ebola case was reported.

For the last three days, the team led by Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Dr. Vincent Martin together with representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been responding to the situation. The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), with logistical support from WFP, arranged a first humanitarian flight to Nzérékoré, carrying personal protective equipment for health workers, assistance kits for infected people, and disinfection equipment. The United Nations delegation met with local authorities and community leaders and is supporting local communities in taking protective measures and complying with the measures announced by the government.

UN officials and authorities in Guinea stand outside a cargo plane with supplies.

Caption: UN team delivers essential humanitarian supplies to local authorities in Guinea.

Photo: UN Guinea

The United Nations team also met with national authorities to discuss the deployment of a rapid contact tracing system aimed to assess the spread of the disease and help develop an effective response plan. This includes emergency vaccine distribution, case management, crisis communication, and border management. UN Resident Coordinator Vincent Martin activated the United Nations humanitarian coordination mechanism immediately after the outbreak was officially declared. He also met with humanitarian actors in Nzérékoré.

UN officials and local authorities meet to discuss a plan to address the outbreak.

Caption: The UN team comes together with local authorities in Nzérékoré and the UN humanitarian mission to plan the response efforts.

Photo: UN Guinea

The Resident Coordinator stated: 

"The United Nations System in Guinea has learned lessons from previous health crises and has been able to respond very quickly by chartering a UN humanitarian flight within less than 24 hours after the outbreak was officially declared, to transport medical equipment and deploy a technical assessment team to Nzérékoré. This is what the UN reform recommends: Swiftness, flexibility and efficiency."

WHO is supporting the government in developing a national Ebola response plan, while also launching an investigation with teams deployed to Conakry and Nzérékoré. Rapid vaccine delivery is underway, with approximately 22,000 doses to be administered this week. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has set up seven health checkpoints in Gouéké, the epicentre of the outbreak, and will be monitoring four priority entry points with neighboring countries: Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, and Sierra Leone.

"The Republic of Guinea is better prepared thanks to its experience in managing the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis, as well as to the management of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the expertise gained from its contribution to the Ebola response in DRC. However, the success of Guinea's response plan will definitely depend on a rapid response and strengthened coordination to channel all the efforts, including risk communication and community engagement in the response, as well as the rapid roll-out of vaccination", the Resident Coordinator added.

Written by Thierno Souleymane Bah, Advocacy and Communication Specialist, Resident Coordinator Office. To learn more, visit:

Resident Coordinator, Vincent Martin kneels by a woman community leader as they speak near a machine that is filling a round hole with grains.
Caption: The Resident Coordinator in Guinea, Vincent Martin, visits with a local community leader.
Photo: UN Guinea