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French minister 'first' in Africa Ebola zone

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French minister 'first' in Africa Ebola zone
Photo: AFP
09:43 CEST+02:00
The French development secretary said Friday she was the first minister in a European government to visit any of west Africa's Ebola-hit nations as she prepared to fly to Guinea.

The French development secretary said Friday she was the first minister in a European government to visit any of west Africa's Ebola-hit nations as she prepared to fly to Guinea.

Annick Girardin will visit Ebola units and healthcare workers in the Guinean capital Conakry on Saturday to discuss France's contribution to the battle to halt an epidemic which has taken 2,400 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"I'm going to Guinea first to say that France is with them. And that's not an insignificant message," she told a news conference in Senegal's capital, Dakar.

"I have not seen another minister from anywhere in Europe visit one of the three countries most affected by the virus."

Girarin's visit comes with the World Health Organization warning that the spiralling epidemic demands a stronger, faster response from the international community.

"It's also an important message to say that there are behaviours to adopt, that there are health systems that are resilient and who can take on this Ebola virus," Girardin said.

"This is the case here in Senegal, it is the case in Ivory Coast and, unfortunately, not the case in Guinea, where health systems have proved less resiliant to this virus, this epidemic."

Girardin said she was taking with her the message that Guinea desperately needed its health infrastructure rebuilt", but that "for that we need resources".

The minister announced the visit last week to "show France's support in the fight" against Ebola, after international medical agency Doctors without Borders (MSF) had warned that the world was "losing the battle" to contain Ebola.

"We have heard the call from MSF," she said.

Girardin will be accompanied by UN Ebola coordinator David Nabarro and the pair are due to discuss the crisis at a European Union meeting in Brussels on Monday.

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