IFRC SECRETARY GENERAL, ELHADJ AS SY - Intervention at the 138th Session of the WHO Executive Board Geneva, Monday 25 January

Published: 25 January 2016

Health shocks and emergency situations reveal the dysfunctionalities in our systems at community, national and international levels. They test our ability to respond, not only in the short-term but more importantly, they test our ability and readiness to engage and partner in the longer-term.

Ebola is a reminder of that reality. A reminder of weak health systems, health care workers in danger, denial, stigma, discrimination, isolation of countries at times when they needed us most.

Ebola forced us to be humble, and to call for partnership, solidarity, respect, trust, care and support.

Our collective response may not have been perfect at the beginning but we must humbly recognise the efforts of WHO, MSF, US CDC (Centre for Disease Control) and the many other actors on the ground, as well as the inclusive leadership of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Ebola. The vital role of communities and local health care workers, including Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, cannot be emphasized enough. They are always there, before, during and after shocks, and they provide the basis for sustainable response.

Communities have an important role to play beyond responding to infectious diseases. We are seeing increased opportunities for diagnosis and treatment of communicable and non-communicable disease at home and in communities.

Health care should be as close to someone’s home as possible. Red Cross and Red Crescent community health volunteers are uniquely placed to partner in that regard.

Last week, alongside Tony Lake from UNICEF and Ertharin Cousins from WFP, I announced our One Billion Coalition for Resilience. The goal of the Coalition is by 2025 to have supported a billion people to have reduced their vulnerability to natural and other hazards.

Health is the foundation for resilience. We need a strong WHO to partner with and welcome into the Coalition.