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Point Africa - Published on 29/10/2014 at 18:22 - Modified on 10/30/2014 at 07:59

Mali-Guinea - Ebola: gates of hell

REPORT. Kouremale is a Malian town on the border with Guinea. What happens gives an idea of ​​how to deploy to contain Ebola.

By our correspondent in Bamako, Laetitia Kretz

In this frontier country that has chosen not to block its roads, the daily changed for customs. Sunken eyes, Ibrahim Maiga gets in his dusty office crammed with paperwork and weapons of all kinds. He did not have time to put on his uniform, thrown loose in the corner of the room cracked walls. "I have not slept for weeks. Last night, I finished at 6 in the morning. I think I will not hold much longer," he says.

Customs helplessly frontline

Mr. Maiga is the customs border Malie-Guinea chief. The only border of Guinea that has not been closed. A few miles away, in the region of Siguiri, Ebola has affected dozens of people, according to the WHO report. "A few days ago, a corpse was brought from Guinea to be buried here," said Ibrahim Maiga. On the form, the doctor wrote "diabolic disease." "That's exactly what it feels like: the other side of the border, there is the devil, and it is a heavy responsibility not to let him enter," he added.

With the limited resources they have, customs can not protect day and night this broad border. In Kouremale, extensive controls are in place for all vehicles. Travelers are subject to questionnaires and local nurses trying to take their temperature.

The lack of health personnel is obvious

But with increasing distance from the Bamako Conakry Koulemale axis, passing through the boundary quickly becomes a sieve. In Koumanakouta, Moussa is a regular at the crossing: "Here there is no one to check our temperature. Each week, I go to work on panning for gold to feed my family toward Siguiri. Nobody give me trouble, "he said. Mali has chosen to keep its open borders and this freedom of movement seems valuable to the people of Koumanakouta: "Economically, we would not survive if they prevented us to come and go," said Moussa.

Nobody wants to hear what the head of the health center is saying

So when Mahamadou Sissoko, head of the local health center, recalled that at the Siguiri site of gold panning where works Moussa, 6 infections date back to last week and at least 140 cases were considered suspects, nobody wants to hear it. Mr. Sissoko has sometimes difficulty to interact with the villagers: "Many people do not want to believe in the existence of the virus It's like with AIDS. I tried to explain, there is nothing to do with some people. "By dint of talking, Ebola becomes personalized. It becomes a ghost at times female : "She will not come look for Malians, she does not like our climate," sometimes manly and violent. "I do not know if Ebola is. But if he hits the villages, it is perhaps because there has to punish the guilty ..."

Ah, the power of rumors ...

Rumors multiply. There is even blaming on Westerners. Malick is 18 years old. A little embarrassed, vaguely uncertain, he explains his theory: "It is perhaps the doctors that come with the virus because the West wants us to die Well, I do not know.". Malick does not seem to believe in what he says, but it refers to the feeling of abandonment face what may be perceived as culpable passivity of the North. Mr. Sissoko, village nurse, has a difficult task here. A young by his side intervenes while he exposes security measures to be taken: "He told us not to touch each other, but if we do not salute, if we do not shake hands, if we do not share our plate drinking from the same glass. So what's left? Being together, is our whole life. "

Some sobering facts

Thirty kilometers separate Siguiri from Koumanakouta and round trips are becoming more frequent. When the pilgrimage to Mecca approached, Guineans who had not been allowed to go there were many flocking to Bamako to register as Malian pilgrims . On the side of Ministry of Health, it provides "keep an eye" but only the city of Kouremale is cited as an example of border control. At the communication ministry, it is assumed not to have strengthened the customs staff.

REPORTAGE. Kouremale est une ville malienne sur la frontière guinéenne. Ce qui s'y passe donne une idée des moyens à déployer pour contenir Ebola.