Red Cross: Fighting stigma and fear is crucial to stopping the spread of Ebola virus disease in West Africa

Published: 2 July 2014

2 July 2014: Accra:  With fear, stigma and denial about the Ebola virus disease running rampant throughout communities in West Africa, education is a critical component to stopping the further spread of the highly deadly disease, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

This is the first time Ebola has surfaced in West Africa and citizens are showing their fear by going into hiding, discharging themselves early from health facilities, and preventing some aid organizations from entering their communities.

“We had an incident in Guéckédou, the epicenter of the outbreak in Guinea recently where people carrying knives surrounded one of our marked Red Cross vehicles,” says Aliou Boly, operations manager, IFRC, Guinea. “It is not the first time we have had such an incident, and it likely will not be the last. However, contrary to some media reports, we did not shut down operations. Instead, we talked with the communities to try and resolved the situation. Education really is the key to stopping this disease in its tracks.”

The Red Cross has launched emergency operations in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, through which more than 2,000 volunteers are being trained and mobilized to share key messages of prevention and protection. In neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal, a further 686 volunteers have been sharing similar messages for the past two months, to prepare communities should the virus spread further across the region.

“The Red Cross is well placed to raise awareness of Ebola in the very remote communities where the virus has surfaced or has the potential to surface,” says Dr Adinoyi Adeiza, IFRC health coordinator in Africa. “We have volunteers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who live and work in these communities. They are trusted members of their community and they are listened to. However, we cannot do this on our own. It is imperative that community leaders and elders work with us to ensure messages of prevention and protection reach the intended audience.”

The call for increased education comes as the Red Cross joins other partners at a special meeting in Accra, Ghana. Organized by the World Health Organization, the two-day meeting is bringing together health and disease specialists from eleven regional countries to discuss future approaches to tackling the outbreak. The Red Cross, as auxiliary to governments in the three affected countries, is participating in the meeting.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the worlds largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

For further information, please contact:

 

In Accra:

  • Moustapha Diallo, senior regional communications officer, IFRC

Mobile: + 233 578 464 781 E-mail: moustapha.diallo@ifrc.org

 

In Addis Ababa:

  • Katherine Mueller, communications manager, IFRC Africa

Mobile: +251 930 03 3413 E-mail: katherine.mueller@ifrc.org

 

In Geneva:

  • Benoit Carpentier, senior officer, public communications, IFRC

Mobile : +41 79 213 24 13 E-mail : benoit.carpentier@ifrc.org

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