IFRC welcomes end of Ebola outbreak, renews call for investment in community-level early warning and response capacity

Published: 14 January 2016

Geneva, 14 January 2016 The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has welcomed today’s announcement of the end of Ebola virus transmission in Liberia, and the effective end of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the IFRC said the role of local Red Cross volunteers and affected communities themselves in bringing the outbreak to an end could not be underestimated:

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the dedication, courage and strength of communities across West Africa, and to the many local and international actors that have supported them over the past 22 months,” said Mr Sy.

Since the outbreak was first announced in early 2014, more than 10,000 Red Cross volunteers have been trained on the Ebola response, with many risking their lives on the frontline. Importantly, Red Cross teams assumed responsibility for providing safe and dignified burials for those who died, a dangerous intervention that was crucial in bringing the outbreak under control.

“Our volunteers were often the difference between life and death,” said Mr Sy. “Now that the outbreak is over, they can play a critical role in strengthening community resilience; in helping their communities prepare for future challenges.”

The IFRC has also renewed its call for increased investment in early warning and response mechanisms.

“Unfortunately, the threat has not passed, and our focus now must be on strengthening the capacity within these three countries to effectively identify and respond to future outbreaks,” said Alasan Senghore, the IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa. “We also need to keep our commitment to communities. Ebola illustrated the weakness of health systems in this region. Let’s not wait for another reminder.”

The Ebola outbreak ended in Sierra Leone in November, followed by Guinea in December. Today, the World Health Organization officially declared the end of Ebola virus transmission in Liberia. The National Red Cross Societies of these three countries were among the first organizations to respond in March 2014 when the first Ebola cases were identified and confirmed.

Red Cross recovery planning in the three affected countries includes Community Event-Based Surveillance which involves training community health monitors to detect and isolate cases before new outbreaks can be triggered.

“Early detection increases the chances of warding off an outbreak of any kind,” added Senghore. “We were all caught off guard by the intensity of the Ebola epidemic. Our recovery activities will help ensure this does not happen again.”

IFRC supported emergency operations in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have targeted 23 million people. These operations will now focus on meeting the longer-term needs of communities. To date, 62 per cent of the 214 million Swiss francs needed for these operations has been received.

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 190 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 Liberia:

  • Mirva Helenius, Communications delegate, IFRC

Mobile: +231 770 472 409, E-mail: mirva.helenius@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, Team leader, public communications, IFRC

Mobile : +41 792 132 413, E-mail: benoit.carpentier@ifrc.org