“If they don’t do it, who will?”: Red Cross Red Crescent calls for better protection and recognition of volunteers

Publié: 4 décembre 2014

Bangkok/ Geneva, 4 December 2014 – On International Volunteer Day (5 December) , the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for increased recognition of volunteers for the important and often life-saving work they carry out in their communities, and for them to receive stronger support and protection in the face of the growing risks they encounter.

On average globally, one Red Cross Red Crescent volunteer is either killed or seriously injured each week while carrying out their humanitarian work.

Since the conflict started in Syria almost four years ago, 47 Red Crescent volunteers have died while on duty, and many more have suffered physical and emotional injuries while providing neutral and impartial help to affected communities. In West Africa, where humanitarian organizations are tackling the largest Ebola outbreak in history, many of the volunteers involved in the response are facing growing stigma and rejection by their own communities for taking part in the fight against the virus.

“As humanitarian environments around the world become more complex, volunteering in these contexts becomes more challenging and dangerous,” said Elhadj As Sy, IFRC secretary general. “Volunteers in these contexts often make a significant and meaningful difference and yet they come from some of the poorest communities and are often facing their own significant challenges and trauma. They are often as vulnerable as the people they support. This is why we need to protect them.”

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has approximately 17 million volunteers worldwide, many of whom are on the front lines of humanitarian emergencies and crises. These volunteers are vital in providing assistance to millions of vulnerable people each year.

“If I don’t do it, who will?” said Mariatu Kagbo, a Red Cross volunteer from Sierra Leone, when she was asked about her work as part of the safe and dignified burial team. Mariatu is one of the more than 10,000 Red Cross volunteers who have been actively helping to curb the outbreak of Ebola across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March.

During humanitarian emergencies and crises, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies often see a tremendous increase in the number of volunteers signing up to assist and deliver relief to affected communities. Volunteers need the support of governments, the organizations they are working for, and the communities in which they live. They require training, recognition, protection in their work, access to protective equipment, adequate insurance and, most of all, continued psychological and personal support.

This past week, IFRC hosted close to 200 staff and volunteers from around the world in Bangkok to address some of these challenges to volunteering today. From the growing threats facing volunteers who are working in complex humanitarian environments, to the impacts of economic crises, urbanization, violence, migration and changing volunteering patterns, the forum asked participants to openly and freely debate the obstacles and needs, while also identifying solutions.

“We want to improve engagement in volunteerism globally, particularly in terms of how to better support the work of our volunteers on a daily basis. We need to help them face the increasing challenges in carrying out their humanitarian work,” explained Shaun Hazeldine, head of volunteering for IFRC. “Volunteers are the backbone of our organization and the communities in which they live. We must take care of them”.

For further information, please contact:

In Geneva:

  • Benoit Carpentier, IFRC Team Leader for Public Communications

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 worlds 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.