IFRC SECRETARY GENERAL, ELHADJ AS SY - Remarks to the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Technical Briefing, World Health Assembly 19 May 2015

Publié: 19 mai 2015

Thank you very much.

We believe that at the forefront of every response, and Ebola is no exception, there are, simply put; individuals, families and their communities. Epidemics and Ebola came to those countries and found them there. And because they found them there, they started to respond. They responded by doing the right thing: caring, supporting, treating, washing, burying.

But unfortunately in this case the right thing to do became a risky thing to do. They paid a high price for the work they did, and that is the reason that health care workers lost their lives, and close family members were the ones who first got infected and died.

They were there as individuals and families and as different forms of organizations in those times when the borders were closed, when the flights were cancelled, and in those times when many partners rushed out of the countries rather than rushed in to the countries, exactly in those times when they were needed most.

But communities also reacted and not only responded. They reacted because they were faced with these overwhelming challenges which they didn’t have solutions to. They were no longer able to care in the way they used to care, they were no longer able to mourn in the way they used to mourn. They were no longer able to accompany deceased people in the way they used to, because of the risk that came with it.

So the Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and their National Societies; they were there all the time, on their side, to accompany them. They were there to inform, to mobilize, to support behavior change. They were also there to fight stigma and discrimination so that people would not be driven underground, and in so doing, fuel further infection and transmission.

And we were there to safely, respectfully and in a dignified manner, accompany these people to their last place of rest. We ended up burying 22,800 people – this is more than the declared number of people officially infected and deceased through Ebola. That means then we lived difficult times when on a number of occasions people died of other conditions but nobody wanted to be anywhere near them.

Yes we had to learn and accept painfully that the number of people we buried under these circumstances became an indicator of results and success. Very unusual. But Ebola also taught us that it is healing process: a healing process at a community level for greater solidarity and for greater social capital and inclusion. A healing of relationships between people. A healing of relationships between governments and their citizens. A healing to restore hope, confidence, and also confidence for the many promises that have been made over the years, and quite a number of times not held.

Promises since the Alma-Ata Declaration that many of us will remember, our promises of health for all by the year 2000, our promises for the unfinished business of primary health care and the Bamako Initiative, and most recently, our promises through the Abuja Declaration to allocate 50 per cent of national resources to health budgets. Did we really need to have Ebola to remind us that health systems are weak?

Health system strengthening, we believe, will not happen without community system strengthening. But the burden of care cannot be shifted to the shoulders of communities alone. To get to zero we need strong and accountable government leadership that holds to promises made. We need also very strong technical leadership and partnership with WHO. And when we have that, we commit that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will continue to always be on the side of those communities to accompany them, to respond to their needs and those needs will include good health and getting to zero.

Thank you very much.


La Fédération internationale des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge constitue, avec ses 190 Sociétés nationales membres, le plus vaste réseau humanitaire du monde. En tant que membres du Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, nous sommes guidés dans notre travail par sept Principes fondamentaux: humanité, impartialité, neutralité, indépendance, volontariat, unité et universalité.