The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomes the opportunity to address this Assembly, and to pledge its support to reduce global mortality from major preventable diseases.
An estimated 13 million preventable deaths continue to occur each year and most of these deaths are in children in developing countries. International donors, technical agencies, and other interested parties such as the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, RBM, GAVI, are working to increase funding to combat these diseases. Yet, achieving high coverage rates, ensuring access for the most vulnerable, and ensuring equity among the poorest who cannot pay for services are still challenges facing us.
While we are increasing the supply side of disease control and strengthening service delivery mechanisms, more attention to the demand side of control programmes is needed. Communities and individuals must know about, want, and seek needed services on a routine ongoing and sustainable basis.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies throughout the world, all of which serve as auxiliaries to Government and the public authorities, are an integral part of the affected communities. As important members of civil society, our volunteers everywhere are working hard to reach the most vulnerable to ensure access and equity. Community networking, social mobilisation, and education for behaviour change are the hallmarks of our Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.
In 2000, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies pledged to this Assembly that it would increase its civil society responsibility by more aggressively advocating for the most vulnerable through innovative partnerships. We are indeed happy to provide an interim progress report on what we have achieved.
It is our hope that the work of the International Federation and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will be seen by this Assembly and other parts of the international system as a direct contribution to the work that all organisations must do if the Millennium Development Goals are to be fulfilled.
Building on our comparative advantages as an organisation with the closest of links to civil society, National RC/RC Societies at global and national levels are joining in alliances such as the National AIDS Committees, Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCM), Interagency Coordinating Committees (ICC), and CORE, a coalition of more than 37 NGOs supporting Roll Back Malaria efforts.
Partnerships to reduce vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and the other infectious diseases such as TB, malaria, measles, and polio have been created and growing rapidly. We have been honored to serve on the GAVI and GFATM Boards as representatives of International Organizations. More and more of our National Societies are joining with national GNP+ groups to address HIV/AIDS.
Since January 2003 the Federation has made more than 4 million CHF available, largely to support Polio Eradication in WHO’s highest priority countries and to supplement measles social mobilisation activities in countries where the Measles Partnership is implementing supplemental immunization activities.
This major partnership with financial support from the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the UN Foundation is working closely with Ministries of Health, WHO, UNICEF, the Federation and many other partners. To date more than 125 million African children have been vaccinated in 25 countries with Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies mobilizing more than 50,000 volunteers for social mobilisation, logistics, and follow-up activities.
The Partnership aims at reaching 200 million children through 2005 and preventing several hundred thousand measles deaths annually. Success in this partnership effort has generated interest in expanding the measles immunization platform and logistics to provide Vitamin A, mebendazole, and Insecticide Treated Bednets (ITNs) in an integrated fashion.
In 2002, a pilot effort to distribute free ITNs in one remote and underserved district in Ghana resulted in more than 80% coverage of households.
In an expanded effort in 2003, in 5 remote districts in Zambia, more than 80,000 ITNs were distributed using the measles supplemental immunization platform. Again more than 80% of households were covered and the Abuja targets for children under 5 years and pregnant women sleeping under ITNs were achieved in 6 days.
A nationwide ITN coverage effort in Togo later this year is now in the planning phase. More than 730,000 free ITNs will be distributed with intensive community education, social mobilisation, follow-up and evaluation provided by more than 15 partners. Successful implementation will ensure that Togo achieves its Abuja targets for ITN coverage within a 9 day effort in December. We look forward to reporting to this Assembly in 2005 on the disease impact of this scaled-up public health intervention.
We congratulate WHO and UNICEF on its joint statement endorsing the approach we have been piloting. The February 2004 statement entitled “Malaria Control and Immunization: a sound partnership with great potential” is innovative and has the potential to lead to the scaled-up efforts which donors, international agencies, and technical agencies are seeking.
The International Federation welcomes and supports this policy development. We look forward to working with WHO, governments and other partners to implement the WHO/UNICEF comprehensive strategies for measles mortality reduction and for scaling-up malaria control activities. National Societies of Red Cross and Red Crescent and their volunteers will work with you towards increasing demand for these interventions.
We support the call for strengthening partnerships at the global, regional and national levels. As an international organization with a bridging role, we believe that a broader involvement of NGOs as partners to their respective national governments, and the successful mobilization of civil society, with an active role for the volunteers whose contributions are vital to success, are necessary for sustainable public health interventions which will result in improved health for the most vulnerable populations and progress towards the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals.