Time is of the essence to control and contain Ebola, says IFRC CEO Elhadj As Sy

Published: 15 August 2014

Geneva, 15 August 2014 – According to Mr Elhadj As Sy, the new Secretary General/ Chief Executive Officer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), every individual within the affected communities plays a vital role in containing the Ebola virus disease. Time is of the essence to halt the spread of the epidemic and he believes that volunteers of National Red Cross Societies in the affected countries can contribute significantly to the efforts.   

“Red Cross volunteers are part of these communities themselves and have the unique understanding and knowledge to help stem the spread of the disease within the communities,” said Mr Sy during his first official visit in his new role to Guinea and Sierra Leone, two of the most affected countries by the Ebola virus disease outbreak.

National Red Cross Societies in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have mobilized over 1,500 volunteers to respond to the Ebola outbreak. Supported by the IFRC, they have been actively engaged in numerous activities at community level such as social mobilization, dead body management and contact tracing.

They work on tackling fears, ignorance and stigma through public education and awareness, with the aim of converting these negative elements into positive actions such as inclusion, solidarity and responsible practices.

“One of the main reasons for this visit was to be next to the volunteers who have been steadfastly working in extremely difficult situations since the beginning of the outbreak. I wanted to show them my solidarity and assure them of my full support, as they must be recognized as the ones who are making all the difference in combatting this deadly disease,” explained Mr Sy.

“Our volunteers are a source of inspiration and pride, it’s heartening to see first-hand their generosity, selflessness and professionalism,” added Mr Sy.

During his three day visit, Ms Sy met the President of Guinea, Professor Alpha Conde, and the President of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, respectively.

Mr Sy expressed his appreciation for the trust and cooperation offered by the two governments to the IFRC and its member Red Cross Societies in the respective countries. Both heads of state acknowledged the crucial role of the Red Cross in the response to the outbreak of Ebola which has already killed more than 1,000 people, among which were several health workers.

“It is particularly important to stop more health care workers in the affected areas from getting infected. These countries cannot afford losing any of their nurses and doctors. The Ebola outbreak is revealing the fragility of the health systems in the affected countries, which will require long-term engagement from all parties in making sure that we build or rebuild the capacities to respond and anticipate this kind of crisis,” said Mr Sy.

The IFRC is calling on the leadership of the government of the affected countries to engage with regional and international institutions to scale up and sustain the momentum of the ongoing response operations.

“In such contexts there are three fundamental elements that need to be applied for an effective response: we need to be fast, because there is no time to lose; we need to be focused on clear results; and we need to be accountable at every level - with our beneficiaries, donors and partners,” said Mr Sy.

“This is why I have decided to establish a regional coordination platform to be based in Conakry, Guinea, which will allow us to coordinate our efforts at a regional level, to align our response in all countries and to work on preparedness measures in surrounding countries, so that we don’t leave anyone behind,” he added.

During his meeting with the heads of state and government officials, Mr Sy had assured them of the IFRC’s full commitment in sustaining and scaling-up, where needed, its response to the epidemic, especially in the community work where the Red Cross volunteers are actively involved.

Mr Sy had also met several other partners involved in the Ebola epidemic response such as WHO, UNICEF, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and layed out the ground for further collaboration at global and country level for a more coordinated and impactful response to the epidemic.

For further information, please contact:

Benoit Carpentier, IFRC Senior Communications Officer, Geneva

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

Reeni Amin Chua, IFRC Communications Officer, Geneva

Mobile: + +41 79 708 6273, E-mail: reeni.aminchua@ifrc.org

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil­lion people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, the 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.