IFRC Secretary General calls for ending Ebola-related stigma and discrimination

Publicado: 3 diciembre 2014

2 December 2014, Dakar: Concerned about the growing stigma that hinders efforts to comprehensively respond to the ongoing Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mr Elhadj As Sy, is strongly urging all governments to not allow fear and misinformation to guide decisions that further isolate countries affected by Ebola and close borders to travelers from West Africa.

Since the outbreak began eight months ago, governments around the world have taken some drastic measures to prevent the virus from reaching their soils, including quarantining health care workers when it was not necessary, preventing international responders from returning to their countries of origin and forcing them to take their 21 day rest and observation period in a third country, and blocking people travelling from West Africa, or those with a West African passport, at frontiers.

“The Ebola outbreak is very much an international concern, and governments are legitimately putting measures in place to protect their citizens. However, closing borders and limiting entry to people travelling from West Africa are not effective ways to contain the outbreak,” said Mr Elhadj As Sy, IFRC Secretary General. “Actions such as these only contribute to the stigmatization faced by the very brave people who are volunteering to respond to this outbreak.”

During a visit to his home country of Senegal where he attended the Francophonie Summit, Mr Sy called on African states affected by the outbreak to scale up screening activities at airports and border crossings to identify people possibly infected with the virus before they travel. Mr Sy then urged governments, including sister African countries, to invest resources into what will ultimately end this outbreak: simultaneous education of communities, isolation of Ebola patients, tracing and monitoring of those who have come into contact with an infected person, and the safe and dignified burials of those killed by the disease.

“Travel restrictions are preventing many  Red Cross Red Crescent staff from applying for positions based in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, and this makes it challenging for our organization to fully implement our Ebola response activities,” added Mr Sy. “We need these people on the ground. Interventions must be sustained, and even enhanced, in order to fully contain the epidemic. Failing to do so will only lead to a wider spread of the disease. It only takes one mistake at a community burial to spark another spike in infections.”

In support of National Red Cross Societies in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and in coordination with International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners, IFRC has launched 16 Ebola operations in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, targeting 39 million people, and totaling more than 100 million Swiss francs. The on-going operations have mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers and 200 international delegates to scale up efforts in social mobilization, safe and dignified burials, contact tracing, psychosocial support, and clinical case management. For more details on the Red Cross regional Ebola response, visit www.ifrc.org/ebola-crisis.

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 Dakar:

  • Moustapha Diallo, senior regional communications officer, IFRC

Mobile: +221 774 501 004 E-mail: moustapha.diallo@ifrc.org

In Conakry:

  • Helena Humphrey, regional communications coordinator, IFRC

Mobile: +224 623 62 94 37 E-mail: helena.humphrey@ifrc.org

In Addis Ababa/Nairobi:

  • Katherine Mueller, communications manager, IFRC Africa

Mobile: +251 930 03 3413 or +254 731 688 613 E-mail: katherine.mueller@ifrc.org

In Geneva:

  • Paivi Hurttia, communications delegate, IFRC

Mobile :  +41 (0)79 948 11 48 E-mail : paivi.hurttia@ifrc.org