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Ebola Workers Attacked By Villagers In Guinea


The authorities in Guinea, who've been searching for members of a team of health workers and journalists who went missing on Tuesday, say they have found at least seven bodies in a village in the south of the country. They were part of a team of Ebola awareness campaigners who were attacked by villagers believed to be hostile to their message. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us now on the line. And, Ofeibea, begin by telling us what more you've learned about this incident in southern Guinea?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Well, we were told that a group of officials and journalists, including doctors, went into this town in southern Guinea. They were in the village of Wome, they were about to spread the message about how to stop the threat of Ebola when they came under attack. Apparently villagers were pelting them with stones and trying to drive them out. We're told that the senior officials managed to get back into their cars and drive away but about nine of them did not manage and they ran away into the Bush we're told. And it's now that the authorities in Guinea are telling us that they have found bodies in the latrine of a primary school and that three of the bodies had had their throats slit.

CORNISH: Are there still people who don't believe the virus exists, who are still hostile to the Ebola awareness campaign?

QUIST-ARCTON: This is a huge problem - we're talking about Guinea. I've just come from Liberia, I have been in Sierra Leone, the three most affected countries with this Ebola outbreak and in all three countries you have people who say to you, Ebola does not exist. Even though you hear campaign songs repeating that Ebola is real, Ebola is here, there are people who say, no it's the health workers. Before it was foreign health workers they blamed, now it's Guineans and Sierra Leoneans and others who are bringing this deadly disease into our community and they get attacked. A month ago in Guinea there were riots when apparently health workers were trying to decontaminate a market. Local people again in Guinea in this southern area said they have come to contaminate us with whatever is killing our people. So it is a huge problem and it goes along with this fear, which is absolutely preeminent in the three countries and, Audie. So you have these authorities in the region who are face with these widespread fears, misinformation and of course the stigma that goes with anyone who is infected with Ebola and not just the person but the family and the community. These are the obstacles that governments are facing.

CORNISH: What more can authorities do, what more have they tried to do?

QUIST-ARCTON: This is happening as the U.S. says it's sending troops into Liberia, Britain into Sierra Leone, France into Guinea - where finally help is coming at an international level, with everyone saying that this Ebola outbreak is going out of control. Trying to educate has got to be a priority for these three countries. They have got to let people know it can kill you, but if you get to a health center early, if you take your loved one to a health center early, there is a chance of survival.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, she joined us on the line from Accra, Ghana's capital. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.