Red Cross: Increased investment in grass-root initiatives needed to strengthen community resilience in Africa

Published: 28 August 2016

Nairobi, Geneva, 28 August 2016 As government leaders from Japan and Africa gather in Nairobi, Kenya for the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) are calling for increased investment in strengthening community resilience so vulnerable families can better face future challenges, including disease outbreaks.

“Community health care workers and volunteers are uniquely invested and uniquely placed to anticipate and respond to public health emergencies,” said Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General, IFRC. “They can bridge the divide between the home and the hospital, and serve as the link between formal and informal health systems. Importantly, in times of crisis, they provide an early warning of a new disease outbreak and, if trained and supported, can lead invaluable early action.”

Thousands of the approximately 1.5 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff across Africa have already played a crucial role in responding to at least 16 emergencies in 2016, including the current yellow fever outbreaks in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conflict in South Sudan, and floods and cholera outbreaks in Kenya.

“Our volunteers are the backbone of the Red Cross,” said Abbas Gullet, Secretary General, KRCS. “Our investment in ensuring they are well trained to respond to a variety of emergencies means communities receive the support they need sooner, and that they are more resilient to cope with unexpected events.”

Although many African countries have made progress in improving their health care systems over the past decades, there are still wide gaps between and within countries regarding access and quality of services. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can complement the primary health care strategies of their governments to overcome weaknesses and barriers in national health systems service delivery.

“The ICRC works to build and maintain the resilience of healthcare systems against the destructive impacts of conflict and violence, which are often long-term and cumulative,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer. “We respond to urgent needs and invest in long-term programmes related to healthcare. Ensuring universal access to healthcare should be a priority, though it is one that requires high-level political advocacy and willingness to stop attacks on health personnel, facilities and vehicles.”

“In the Central African Republic, in the midst of the worst of the sectarian violence that has gripped that country, the Central African Red Cross and the IFRC have had staggering success in not only maintaining health services, but expanding them to levels that have never before been seen in the country. All this has been achieved at the community level by Red Cross volunteers,” added Mr Sy.

“We are fully committed to doing all we can to strengthen and promote resilient health systems,” said Mr Sy. “Look for us in the communities. That is where we are and where we will continue to be.”

For editors:

The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) was first held in Japan in 1993 to promote high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and their partners, including humanitarian aid and non-governmental organizations; and to mobilize support for African-owned development initiatives.

Since its inception, TICAD has provided fundamental and comprehensive policy guidelines on African development, and has evolved into a major global framework to facilitate the implementation of initiatives for promoting African development under the dual principle of African “ownership” and international “partnership”.

For more information on TICAD VI, visit

For media interviews, please contact:

In Nairobi:

  • Jason Straziuso, East Africa spokesman, ICRC Africa
    Mobile: +254 733 622 026, E-mail:

In Geneva: