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French minister is first from Europe to visit Ebola-hit region

© Bertrand Guay, AFP | French junior minister Annick Girardin on August 27, 2014

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-09-15

French development secretary Annick Girardin will be “the first” European minister to visit the west African region worst hit by the deadly Ebola virus when she touches down in Guinea on Saturday.

During her visit to the Guinean capital Conakry, the junior minister is scheduled to visit Ebola units and meet with healthcare workers to discuss France's contribution in the battle to halt the epidemic which has so far claimed almost 2,400 lives in the three nations worst hit by the fast-spreading virus: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“I’m the first European minister to set foot” in the region since the start of the epidemic, Girardin told FRANCE 24’s sister station RFI in an interview ahead of the trip. “France can be proud,” she exclaimed.

Girardin's visit follows a call from the World Health Organization (WHO), urging the international community to respond more quickly to stop the epidemic from spiraling out of control.

"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, on Friday.

"It's also an important message to say that there are behaviours to adopt, that there are health systems that are resilient and that 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 resilient to this virus, this epidemic," she said, adding that Guinea desperately needs an overhaul of its health infrastructure, but noted "for that we need resources".

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

"We have heard the call from MSF," Girardin 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.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-09-13

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