Monday, April 07, 2014

[FOG News] New Blogger From Guinea

Friends of Guinea,

My name is Shreyan Sen, PCV Guinea '12-'14. I'll be your second new blogger writing live from Guinea. Some background about myself- I'm an Ed Volunteer from the Haute region, stage G22. I'll be COS'ing in September, but until then I hope to shed some light on contemporary Guinea, for old Guinea hands, new invitees, and anyone else who loves this quixotic country.

My beautiful site goes by the name Djelibakoro (cryptically telling us that the griot is below)- it's a new site, but it's also the twin site to older Niandankoro, over on the Niger where Kankan Prefecture turns into Siguiri Prefecture. Years ago the two prefectures were separated by that river, but today Djeliba/Niandan is host to Guinea's largest bridge, connecting the two villages and the shiny, perfect road that passes from Kankan all the way to Bamako.

At site, when I'm not teaching, I like to invest time in my secondary projects, several of which involve my school (WASH-Friendly Schools & School Garden projects). My favorite project by far though is the solar drying project, because mangoes are Allah's apology for hot season, and they're even better during cold season. Food transformation is awesome, am I right?

Writing about Guinea is fun, and it's even better when you can actually answer people's questions and talk about what really interests them. So if curiosity ever calls, leave a comment on the blog detailing what you'd like to know about contemporary Guinea and I'll try to answer. And especially for RPCVs, comment back and tell us what Guinea was like back during your service!

Awa, An Be Koffe!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Ebola: A Volunteer's Perspective

In the past few weeks, the entire world has heard of Guinea’s Ebola outbreak. Ebola, a deadly virus with a death rate of up to 90% (although it’s at around 60% here), is honestly a terrifying neighbor. Many Volunteers found out through friends and family, during concerned calls, texts, and facebook posts. As per usual, Volunteers were out of the loop on the international news side. While Peace Corps had its hands tied (though they did quite a bit to ensure Volunteer safety as we’ll discuss later), it was a bit troubling that PCVs heard about Ebola through their international connections before their local connections.

Volunteers have had outbreaks near or at their sites. Some Volunteers responded to this by barricading themselves at their sites, refusing to travel. Others were told to stay at the regional capitals temporarily while policies were being verified.

Perhaps scarier than the idea of Ebola by itself, is the feeling of distance between Volunteers and their medical support structures. Even with the best PCMO teams out there, the fact remains that Volunteers often live in isolated and remote places, and responses to medical problems are never as certain as calling 911 and expecting an ambulance.

Despite the panic, the reality on the ground is not nearly so precarious. The death rate is holding steady, at around 80 dead in a country of 10 million. The truth is, malaria is still far more likely to kill a Volunteer than Ebola is. The CDC, Doctors Without Borders, the Guinean Government, and other organizations are all working together to quarantine all cases, actual and suspected, of Ebola. Isolation is the best tool we have against a more widespread outbreak. While it’s true that the range of the virus has been troublingly large, much of the spread has been traced to specific families that transported their sick and dead. Those families themselves have been quarantined.

Part of the reason Ebola hasn’t spread that dramatically is due to its high mortality rate- but part of it is also due to the relative difficulty involved in catching the virus. It’s not airborne, and probably won’t be passed through casual contact during the incubation period. Only when the patient is really sick are they highly contagious. Avoiding the extremely ill and the deceased puts Volunteers at low risk of catching the deadly disease. Nonetheless, Peace Corps is closely monitoring the situation, at times instituting travel restrictions and restrictions on health center work (anything that can bring Volunteers into proximity with the sick). The main risk to Volunteers actually comes from hospitals, where proper isolation techniques can be questionable and the disease can actually spread. If a Volunteer falls ill, perhaps unconscious, and is taken to a medical center also hosting an Ebola patient, they are at risk. To ensure a rapid response, an emergency Peace Corps vehicle has been installed near the Volunteers closest to the outbreaks. Peace Corps Guinea also invited the CDC to analyze their Ebola response plan- the CDC recommended no changes. Don’t worry- we’re being taken care of!

Guinean responses to the outbreak vary. In the villages, little has changed. Ebola hasn’t taken on a menacing reality yet. The government’s texts encouraging hand washing have boosted some PCV hand washing projects- not much else has changed (except for those public health Volunteers who can’t go to work).

In Conakry though, paranoia has taken root. People are washing their hands with pure bleach. I even saw a Guinean using hand sanitizer- I had no idea it existed in Guinea (outside of Volunteer care packages). The high vigilance towards hygiene can’t be a bad thing. Hopefully it will persist after the epidemic passes away, as it will. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Peace Corps Guinea Spelling Bee

Thanks to three very hard-working Volunteers: Geoff Delperdang (G22, Télimélé), Liz Chadwick (G20, Boké), and Hannah Koeppl (G24, Kankan), hundreds of Guinean students had the opportunity to participate in spelling bees at the school, regional, and national levels. Each Education Volunteer (and a few Extension Volunteers) held a school spelling bee at their middle school. The top two students from each school then had the chance to compete in a regional bee, with each region holding two bees. From each of these, the top three students moved on to the final round: the national bee in Mamou. In Mamou, before the competition at the hotel ENATEF, we did a variety of team-building activities and games with the students. They and the Volunteers had a lot of fun, and each of the kids made some new friends. The activities also served to loosen the kids up a bit, so that they would not be performing in front of a crowd of complete strangers. The spelling bee competition represented an excellent opportunity to expand the horizons of our young students. First and foremost, it got them about excited about studying French. Second, dozens of students had the opportunity to get out and experience something different from their village, probably many of them for the first time. Finally, for those lucky enough to reach the final round in Mamou, it was a really beautiful thing to watch kids from all across Guinea, with different backgrounds and languages, work together and compete in a spirit of friendly competition. More than the spelling of difficult French words, we hope that is what our students continue to carry with them after this experience. Ryan Plesh

Friday, March 07, 2014

[FOG News] FOG starts blogging from Guinea

Hello Friends of Guinea! I’m a current Peace Corps Guinea Volunteer, and I’ll be blogging for FOG inch’Allah (ideally) twice a month, ostensibly until my COS (Close of Service) in the fall of 2015. I’m an Education Volunteer from the G24 stage, which arrived in Guinea in the fall of 2013. The current stages in Guinea are G22-G25, and we span the sectors of: Education, Public Health, and Agroforestry. Education Volunteers in Guinea teach primarily math, physics, and chemistry, as well as English. My site is in the mountainous Moyenne Guinée (Middle Guinea) region, locally referred to as the “Fouta Djallon.” Currently Volunteers are distributed throughout Moyenne Guinée, Haute Guinée (Upper Guinea), and the Basse Côte (Low Coast) regions. There are approximately 100 total Volunteers in Guinea, although the number is continually in flux with the coming and going of stages and individuals. Roughly 40% of the current Volunteers are teachers, and the other 60% are divided between the two extension sectors: PH and Agfo. This is an important time for Peace Corps Guinea and for the Republic of Guinea as a whole. Peace Corps service here has unfortunately been interrupted several times in the past due to political unrest, most recently in 2009, but for the first time in its history Guinea has a full democracy complete with democratically elected officials in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of its government. Its situation is far from ideal, but the conditions are set for things to continue to improve here into the future. I feel grateful to be a part of that, and I’m happy to be in a position that allows me to communicate the progress that is being made here to new and old friends of Guinea. Thank you for your support. Best, Ryan Plesh FOG Social Media Chair

Sunday, September 01, 2013

[Guinean news] Bissau cocaine traffickers moving into Conakry

Guinea-Bissau is widely described as Africa's first narco-state. But this article in Mmegi Online is the latest to express the concern that narcotraffickers are increasingly moving south into Conakry and may begin to destabilize Guinea as well.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

[Guinean news] One shot dead in anti-government rally after new election date set

At least one person was shot and two wounded at an anti-government rally in Guinea. President Alpha Conde set June 30 as the date for legislative elections without agreeing to opposition demands that he strip a South African company, Waymark, of its contract to manage the voter list and allow the mostly pro-opposition diaspora to vote. 

A government spokesman promised an international inquiry into the incident.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

[FOG news] New website!

Friends of Guinea has a spiffy new website. Check it out! www.friendsofguinea.org

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

[Guinean news] New date for legislative elections set

Guinea's Independent National Electoral Commission has announced that long-delayed legislative elections have been scheduled for May 13, 2013. Though an opposition spokesman expressed disapproval. Guinea has been without a functioning National Assembly as a result of the delays.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

[Guinean news] Rioting kills three in Guéckédou

Reuters is reporting that three people have died in rioting in the southern Guinean town of Guéckédou. Clashes broke out between government supporters and opposition activists over alleged abuse of power by the military préfet. There has been tension in the area since October when the agriculture minister, who hails from the area, was removed from office amid corruption allegations.