Rusal’s Ebola Response in Guinea: building the Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment (CEMRT)
Guinea is a country rich in bauxite and alumina, and as the world’s second largest aluminium producer,Rusal has had a significant presence in the country for many years. Rusal is both a major local employer and one of Guinea’s largest private sector investors.
When the Ebola crisis first took hold in Guinea in late 2013, Rusal did not hesitate in leveraging its on-the-ground presence in the country in order to support Guinea, Russia and the rest of the world in taking steps to combat Ebola. The Rusal Ebola response effort set an example for how private companies can be proactive participants in combating global health crises.
Rusal Ebola Response: Swift Action Against Catastrophic Threat
In response to the Ebola epidemic, Rusal immediately began the construction of the Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment (CEMRT), at a cost of $10 million. Rusal was the only public company to undertake such a major construction project in response to the catastrophic spread of Ebola in West Africa.
Taking just 50 days to build, and designed by Rusal specialists with the assistance of Rospotrebnadzor (the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing) scientists, the centre was located at the former Soviet-Guinean Institute Pasteur in Kindia. Built by Rusal using the most up-to-date Russian engineering methods and furnished with some of themost high-tech medical equipment on the market, Rusal’s centre is now one of the leading modern clinics in West Africa.
For example, the laboratory created by Rusal at CEMRT in as part of the Rusal Ebola response was unrivalled in West Africa, both with regards to its application of technology and biosecurity systems. While dealing with Ebola pathogens is inherently hazardous, the technology in Rusal’s centre meant research could be carried out both efficiently and safely. By constructing this laboratory, Rusal has helped accelerate health security systems in Guinea. So significant was the contribution of the centre constructed by Rusal in response to the Ebola crisis that CEMRT was made a medical institution of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Guinea.
Indeed the Rusal centre was at the epicentre of the war on Ebola in Guinea. Among the facilities provided by Rusal at the centre were an infection hospital, a provisional hospital, a mobile laboratory and a blood and plasma transfusion department with a laboratory. Rusal’s centre functioned as a first-response hospital for those infected with the Ebola virus and also has a focus on conducting research into other infectious and potentially catastrophic diseases as well as Ebola. The over-arching aim of the centre and the broader Rusal Ebola response was not only to treat patients, but to further knowledge about the detection, treatment and prevention of communicable diseases.
62.5% Survival Rate for Ebola victims
Within the context of the Rusal Ebola response, the impact the centre had was extraordinary. Of those who visited CEMRT to receive treatment for Ebola, 62.5% recovered – the best response rate in Guinea.The Rusal Ebola response also included practical support for Rusal employees at risk of the spread of Ebola. As one of Guinea’s major employers, Rusal’s response to the Ebola crisis also included taking measures to protect its employees–and in turn, their communities – from Ebola. Ebola control measures were implemented at the company’s sites in Guinea and at the residences of employees in order to reduce the risk of Ebola transmission. This included the disinfection of premises and buildings, workstations and homes. Another part of the Rusal Ebola response effort consisted of raisingawareness of how good personal hygiene could help in the fight against Ebola.
Rusal’s Humanitarian Ebola Response
Rusal’s response to the Ebola virus was not limited to the construction of the hospital and providing practical assistance in Guinea. In November 2014, Rusal also supported the Russian Federation in deploying an additional 200-bed hospital in Guinea. It also organised and funded the training of qualified military medical staff to operate the centre, which during the Ebola epidemic provided more than 4,500 people with medical aid.
Other support provided through the Rusal Ebola response to the crisis included supporting the delivery of 39 tonnes of humanitarian relief and organising the system of sanitary posts in the Conakry Sea Port in the capital of Guinea. Rusal also organised the safe unloading of Russian aircrafts delivering equipment required to deal with the Ebola outbreak and ensured that this cargo could be safely transported across the country.
Rusal Supporting the International Ebola Response
As part of its response to Ebola, Rusal also facilitated discussion and learning at an international level. For example, it held research and training seminars featuring the leading Russian scientists Viktor Maleev and Professor Konstantin Zhdanov. Rusal also facilitated the participation of Russian representatives in international scientific forums in Malabe, Conakry, Kindia, Moscow and Geneva.
The Rusal Ebola response also furthered research into Ebola by organising the visits of specialists to medical centres which were dealing with cases of Ebola all over Guinea. This enabled leading scientists to conduct research based on accurate clinical findings and work with real virological materials as they sought to develop a vaccine to prevent future outbreaks. With the support of Rusal, that is just what they did. In 2015, Rusal organised a roundtable discussion “Ebola vaccine from Russia: the first lessons and outlook into the future” after the registration ofa Russian vaccine, EvakCombi. Guinean President Alpha Conde expressed his appreciation for the action that Rusal and Russia have taken in response to the Ebola crisis in his country.
The Russian Federation allocated funding for field trials of the Ebola vaccine and it was announced in March 2016 that 2,000 citizens of the Republic of Guinea would be vaccinated at the Rusal centre. In July 2017 a further 1,000 doses of the Ebola vaccine were sent to Guinea to be administered at the Rusal centre.
When Ebola struck, Rusal’s response was quick the legacy of the Rusal Ebola response will last long into the future. The Ebola crisis may be over, but the centre built by Rusal will remain a key part of the African and indeed global response to communicable diseases such as Ebola. The Rusal-built facility will act as a research hub and regular medical centre for the treatment of these infectious diseases.