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Guineans Scramble To Defend Themselves Against Deadly Virus


The people of Guinea are struggling with the daily reality of the lethal Ebola virus. Scores of cases have been confirmed in the country, and now pails of bleach-diluted water or disinfectant stand in the entrances to many homes for visitors to wash their hands. The government of Guinea has ordered the public to stay away from bushmeat, like fruit bats and monkeys. These are considered delicacies, but they can also carry the deadly virus. From the capital of Conakry, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Health Minister Rene Lama comes from Guinee Forestiere, Guinea's southeastern forest region where the Ebola outbreak was first identified. And he gave the order for the ban on the sale and consumption of bushmeat, which is popular in his part of the country.

HEALTH MINISTER RENE LAMA: (Through translator) Yes, people eat fruit bats, monkeys and other bushmeat, but we know these animals can be reservoirs for the Ebola virus. So we've warned the hunters to stop hunting fruit bats and other animals in the bush.

QUIST-ARCTON: But are they - are these directives that you've given out, are they being respected - the ban on bushmeat, monkey meat, fruit bat meat?

LAMA: (Through translator) Oh, yes. They're listening. Of course, forest guards - eco-guards, we call them - are checking and following up to ensure the strict application of the ban on the slaughter of bush animals.

QUIST-ARCTON: We've come to Tannrie market. I can see tailors. I can see people selling tomatoes, plantain, onions, slippers, everything except bushmeat. It seems to be off the market stores. We're looking around. Hassan (ph) is just asking one of the market traders whether there's any bushmeat on sale. And she said, no. Nope. Merci. Ma'am, what's your name, please?

ANNIE SUA: My name is Annie (ph).

QUIST-ARCTON: Annie who?

SUA: Sua (ph).

QUIST-ARCTON: Very good. I've got question for you, ma'am. Is anyone selling bushmeat in Conakry and Guinea anymore?

SUA: Yeah, there are some people selling it.


SUA: They have other markets.

QUIST-ARCTON: Now there's a government ban. The government has told people to stop eating...

SUA: Bushmeat.

QUIST-ARCTON: ...To stop buying.

SUA: Yes. Yes, I saw this. The bushmeat have sick. So humans, we're not allowed to eat bushmeat. It have sick. So they won't make the people fear, and then they buy the bushmeat again. You not have buyer.

QUIST-ARCTON: So nobody's buying anymore. Why, because they're scared, they're frightened?

SUA: Yes. Yes. They're scared to die. They say they don't want to die, so they didn't buy the bushmeat.

QUIST-ARCTON: To die of what, Ebola?

SUA: Ebola. Yes. Yes. Yes, ma'am.

QUIST-ARCTON: So no bushmeat on sale in this market, says Annie Sua. But some of my local journalist colleagues are reporting that the trade has simply gone underground in Guinea and that if you have the right contacts, you can still find it to buy.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Conakry. 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.