“Without a significant change of thinking and a better understanding of the opportunities that integration with Asia can bring to Russia, development will be limited.”

Rusal’s public-private partnership in Guinea: stopping Ebola in its tracks

In late 2013, disaster struck the West African country of Guinea when Ebola – a disease as contagious as it is dangerous – began to spread through the country like wildfire. With the help of Rusal and a cleverly executed public-private partnership that built a new, hi-tech medical centre, the outbreak was successfully brought under control.

Rusal and Guinea vs. Ebola

Rusal is the world’s second largest aluminium producer, and as such has had a long and positive working relationship with Guinea, a country blessed with abundant bauxite and alumina.As one of the country’s largest employers and private investors, Rusal takes its responsibilities to Guinea seriously. The Guinean government has awarded Rusal the status of ‘socially orientated company’ in recognition of its commitment to help further Guinea’s development. When Ebola struck, Rusal took action by implementing a public-private partnership that would be instrumental in helping to halt the transmission of Ebola.

Why Rusal’s anti-Ebola public-private partnership was necessary

At the start of the outbreak, Guinea was under-equipped to deal with the spread of Ebola. By August 2014, the Ebola epidemic had killed some 377 people and the country’s president, Alpha Conde, declared a state of emergency. Ebola caused such havoc in no small part due to the fact that Guinea was so simply not prepared to deal with such outbreaks.Attempts to mitigate the spread of Ebola were stymied by structural issues, such as poor infrastructure and undeveloped healthcare systems.

Guinea needed better mechanisms for managing public health – both now and in the future. Rusal, through its public-private partnerships with the Guinean and Russian governments, contributed a vital, state-of-the-art medical centre that will advance Guinea’s healthcare infrastructure.

Launching Rusal’s public-private partnership in response to Ebola

In order to provide Guinea with the healthcare resources to navigate the challenges of the Ebola virus, Rusal began building the Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment (CEMRT), a public-private partnership between Rusal and the Guinean government that would help the country turn the tide on the Ebola virus.

Part of the strength of this centre – and other public-private partnerships implemented by Rusal around the world – is that itinvested private sector funding and expertise in a project for the public benefit. Costing $10 million, the anti-Ebola centre was designed and built by Rusal’s specialists in just 50 days using the most up-to-date Russian engineering techniques and with expert input from scientists working forRospotrebnadzor (the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing).

No expense was spared in terms of facilities. Rusal provided an infection hospital, a provisional hospital, a mobile laboratory and a blood and plasma transfusion department with a laboratory. The public-private partnership aimed at stopping Ebola had two equally important functions: stopping Ebola in Guinea in the near term and providing a toolkit to prevent its resurgence in the future.

In terms of how successful Rusal’s Ebola treatment centre was, the survival rates speak for themselves. Of those who visited CEMRT to receive treatment for Ebola, 62.5% recovered. This was the best response rate in Guinea. Rusal was also instrumental in inculcating anti-Ebola behaviour in Guinea, both through its influence as an employer and through its public-private partnership. For example, Rusal instigated education programmes for its employees about how they personally could help prevent Ebola – by for example practising good hygiene. Rusal also took practical preventative steps to prevent Ebola transmission, such as disinfecting premises, workstations, buildings and even employee’s homes.

Of course, while stopping Ebola was imperative at the height of the crisis, an equally important facet of Rusal’s public-private partnership was devising ways to make Ebola – and other communicable diseases like it – a thing of the past. Rusal was a major part of the drive towards the development of an Ebola vaccine.

Russia is at the vanguard of vaccine development globally, and the crisis in West Africa accelerated its research into a viable Ebola vaccine. Using real virological materials sourced from the CEMRT public-private partnership, scientists at the Russian State Gamaleya Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow were able to develop a model for an Ebola vaccine. Clinical trials were carried out from March 2016 and two final variants were developed; the Gam-Evac Combi and Gam Evac. This vaccine was the world’s first officially registered vaccine approved for clinical use for the prevention of the Ebola virus.

Rusal’s public-private partnership has again proved instrumental in the administration of the vaccine. In July 2017, the first batch of 1,000 Ebola vaccine doses were sent from Russia to Guinea. The potentially life-saving drugs will be administered from Rusal’s facility.

Rusal’s long-term contribution to Guinea’s healthcare system

For now, the Ebola crisis is over in Guinea.However, he usefulness of the public-private partnership developed by Rusal as part of Guinea’s healthcare infrastructure is only just beginning. The laboratory at the centre that Rusal has funded is unrivalled in West Africa, with both state-of-the-art facilities and biosecurity systems. Here, further research not only into Ebola, but other potentially devastating communicable diseases, will continue to take place.

The inception of the CEMRT has accelerated health security systems in Guinea by some margin. Rusal’s centre will remain a key hub for research into some of the world’s most dangerousinfectious diseases, with improved diagnostics, better treatments and more effective prophylactic measures all under research. In recognition of the impact that the public-private partnership instigated by Rusal has had on the health landscape of Guinea, the CEMRT has been made a medical institution of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Guinea.

At the inception of this project, Vladislav Soloviev, the CEO of Rusal said that his company would strive “to provide full support to the Republic of Guinea, not only in the fight against the Ebola virus, but also in activities related to strengthening their national health system as a whole in order to successfully prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases in the future”.