Lights, camera, action! How cinema is saving lives in Cameroon
Combining both learning and entertainment, mobile cinema has, over the years, become a prominent way of engaging remote communities around the world on a wide range of important topics—everything from how to stay healthy, to how to prepare for disasters.
Each mobile cinema kit contains a projection screen and tripod, laptop, microphones and speakers and a generator so they can still run even in the face of power cuts.
Since receiving the kits, the Cameroon Red Cross has been using mobile cinema to share life-saving messages about COVID-19, cholera, and any others relevant topics, which will help people to prepare and stay safe. All in an exciting and effective way, and within a community’s own environment.
"Mobile cinema allows us to provide the right information that communities need in the fight against epidemics and disasters of all forms. This fun and useful tool is undoubtedly allowing us to improve our humanitarian response across the country,”
President of the Cameroon Red Cross
Mobile cinema screenings aren’t just about sitting back and watching. They’re also a great way to engage communities through question-and-answer sessions and to gather people’s valuable feedback.
Each screening is facilitated by Cameroonian Red Cross volunteers—many of whom were recently trained in communication, community engagement and feedback collection. Listening to people’s questions, concerns, thoughts and fears helps volunteers to understand communities’ needs better, and tailor their work accordingly. Marlyse, a 15-year-old student in the southern city of Kribi who attended a recent screening, said:
“This is the first time I have taken part in this type of activity and I have learned a lot. We watched a video on COVID-19 and this reinforced our knowledge on preventive measures. Also the talk with the people from the Red Cross helped us to know more about the vaccine.”
Mobile Cinema attendee in Kribi
You can watch the video Marlyse refers to below (in French):
At the IFRC, we know that epidemics begin and end in communities. And that with the right information and support, everyone can play an important role in detecting diseases, responding effectively, and preparing for future health risks.
Take Mr Biyong, for example, a community leader in Kribi who is excited about the Cameroonian Red Cross project and the potential of mobile cinema:
"We are currently experiencing a cholera epidemic in our community and in the whole region. I think this tool is very timely! Through the broadcasting of the video on cholera, the modes of transmission and how to prevent this disease, my community members were able to see with their own eyes what we try to explain to them every day. This is really a tool that will help stop the spread of the disease.”
Kribi Community Leader
Together, the IFRC and Cameroonian Red Cross hope to expand mobile cinema screenings across the country in the coming months, listening to and learning from the people we support as we go.
“In addition to things like food, water and shelter, we know that information is, in itself, aid. The IFRC is working hard to help National Societies like the Cameroonian Red Cross take ownership of the opportunities and benefits of this exciting mobile cinema approach to making communities more resilient,”
IFRC Head of Country Cluster Delegation for Central Africa
This work in Cameroon is part of the IFRC’s multi-country Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), funded by USAID. Click here to learn more about the project and our work in this area.
And if you enjoyed this story, you may also be interested in our new case studies showing how Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have helped prepare communities for, and protect them from, COVID-19.
| Press release
Global COVID-19 Summit: “World leaders must step up and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, tests and treatments.”
Geneva, 12 May 2022 - During the second Global COVID-19 Summit co-hosted by the White House, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Secretary General Jagan Chapagain underlined the network’s commitment to delivering COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to the most vulnerable and building back stronger health systems.
While many countries have successfully rolled out COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, vaccine coverage remains below 10 per cent in many low-income countries including, Papua New Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti or Madagascar. Low-income countries can also not afford tests and other lifesaving tools such as antiviral drugs or oxygen supplies, leaving millions at risk of contracting the virus and suffering its deadly consequences.
Mr. Chapagain said:
“World leaders must step up and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, tests and treatments. This means targeting those who are most vulnerable, have the greatest needs and are the hardest to reach. This pandemic is still spreading and killing people. It is too soon to drop our guard and give up our global efforts against COVID-19.”
Since the start of the pandemic, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have supported more than 400 million people to access COVID-19 vaccination and provided mental health support to over 13 million people in 152 countries. Because they are part of the very communities they serve, their role is also critical to building trust, informing communities about public health measures and boosting vaccine uptake.
For example, across Asia and the Pacific, millions of volunteers have helped tens of millions of people get vaccinated against COVID-19. Afghanistan has one of the world’s most fragile health systems and has vaccinated only 12% of its population with two doses. The Afghan Red Crescent has been operating a 50-bed hospital dedicated to COVID-19 patients and provided food or cash to more than 165,500 people. More than 1 million people were screened through their Mobile Health Teams and clinics in 2021.
In Namibia where only 16% of the population has been fully vaccinated, the Namibia Red Cross has led a “get vaccinated – kick COVID-19 out of Namibia” road show campaign. Red Cross volunteers walk through the streets in communities around the country, carrying signs, singing songs, and leading chants about vaccination. At COVID-19 vaccination sites, Red Cross volunteers also support registration for vaccination and data entry and provide basic first aid.
During the Summit, Mr. Chapagain expressed IFRC’s support to a pandemic financing mechanism that would allow community actors to access funding to strengthen community health systems and to increase their resilience to future health threats.
Mr. Chapagain said:
“We need to prepare for the next pandemic now. The world wasn’t ready for COVID-19, but we can be for the next pandemic. We must harness the lessons, successes and failures from the response to COVID-19 and build towards a future where communities are equipped to respond to the next health crisis.”
To request an interview or for more information, please contact:
In Washington: Marie Claudet +1 202 999 8689, [email protected]
Click here to discover more examples of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' vaccination activities during COVID-19.
Epidemic preparedness tools and resources
Discover our helpful tools and resources about epidemic and pandemic preparedness—on topics ranging from disease control to community engagement and accountability.
The IFRC and our 192 National Societies striveto reduce illness and death, improve health and maintain people’s dignity during emergencies.Our emergency health team works to improvethequality, reliability, predictability andflexibilityof our health services around the world in preparation for emergencies.
| Press release
Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector
Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector.
In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation.
The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability.
European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said:
“I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.”
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:
“Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.”
The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components.
Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU.
Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies.
The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross.
For more information
In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924
| Press release
"Never before has the need for a localized approach to crises been so evident"
Geneva, 27 December 2021 - “As we end this year, and on this International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, I would like to pay tribute to the brave and invaluable contributions of frontline responders. For the past two years, they have helped to detect and slow the spread of COVID-19, to treat and support those most affected, and dispel myths and rumours about the virus, vaccines and the wider response. They continue to support our communities worldwide. While some literally gave their lives to keep others safe, governments struggled, and are still struggling, to pull together a global coordinated and inclusive response.
“Never before has the need for a localized approach to crises been so evident, but it cannot fall on the shoulders of local responders alone. The international community can, and must, do better by them. Unique opportunities to put communities at the centre of the response are laid before us in 2022, from the upcoming White House COVID summit and the launch of Global Vax to the reconvening of Member States to agree on an international instrument to strengthen preparedness and response to pandemics. We urge decision-makers to strengthen recognition of, and support to, community engagement and feedback mechanisms, community health systems and community surveillance and preparedness programs.
“Public health emergencies are our past, our present, and we will face them again. Based on the IFRC’s years of experience in responding to health crises around the world, and on our network’s mandate to assist Governments with legal preparedness for disasters and public health emergencies, we stand ready to continue to support communities and respond to their needs.”
For more information
In Geneva: Ann Vaessen, +41 79 405 7750, [email protected]
Learn more about our work in epidemic and pandemic preparedness.
Epidemics and pandemics
Epidemicsare an unexpected, often sudden, increase of a specific illness within a community or region.Pandemicsare when an epidemic occurs worldwide, crossing international borders and affecting a large number of people.A number of communicable diseasescan be significant health threats at the local, regional andglobal leveland leadto epidemics or pandemics. Epidemics and pandemics can be prevented and mitigated through a range of household and community measures, such as good hygiene, social distancing and vaccination.
| Press release
"The pandemic has both thrived on inequities and exacerbated them"
“The pandemic has both thrived on inequities and exacerbated them. Any new legal instrument, be it a treaty or otherwise, must affirm a commitment to equity: equity in access to health services and care, equity in access to vaccines, data, diagnostics and other treatments, and equity in access to recovery efforts, including economic recovery.
“Too often we neglect the important work of community-level responders. We need increased investments and coordination in programmes that put communities at the heart of the response.
“This pandemic has made it clear that we need bold new solutions – both in international and domestic laws – to avoid the same mistakes happening again.
“Public health emergencies are our past, our present, and we will face them again. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, yet two years on we are still overly reactive and uncoordinated. Variants, like Omicron, will continue to emerge while the virus continues to circulate. Vaccine, data and knowledge equity are key to protecting the global population.
“Based on the IFRC’s years of experience in responding to health crises around the world, and on our network’s mandate to assist Governments with legal preparedness for disasters and public health emergencies, we stand ready to strengthen this work. Whatever the outcome of these sessions, it must not only be powerful on paper, but it must also be transformative in reality.”
For further information
In London: Teresa Goncalves, +44 (0) 7891 857 056, [email protected]
Epidemic and pandemic preparedness
The IFRC and our National Societies engage and train people worldwide in epidemic preparedness and response. We help them prevent, detect and quickly respond to outbreaks—saving countless lives and promoting healthier communities.
Preparedness to respond effectively to multiple hazards
By Olivia Acosta
Prevention, preparedness, early action, and response to disasters and crises are at the core of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). According to Mr. Jean Urbain Zoa, Secretary-General of the Cameroon Red Cross (CRC), one of the main challenges of the National Society is to be prepared for any emergency: “Better preparedness will help anticipate crises and disasters and build capacity to provide an integrated response. Preparedness can save lives, mitigate the severity of a crisis and engage the population and empower them to manage future disasters”.
Local actors are best placed to reduce disaster risk and to take early action when disasters strike. The commitment of the CRC volunteers, who support their own communities during emergencies, is essential – but the organization doesn’t forget that they, too, might need help. “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected some staff and volunteers of our organization, but we are trying to give the best response to the increasing needs in the most affected communities”, said the Secretary-General.
Indeed,nothing is the same since the pandemic arrived in Cameroon last year.Um Antoine, CRC first aid trainer,explains that“People in the communities are very afraid of Covid-19. They don’t want to be in touch with their neighbors to avoid contagion… the most disadvantaged people feel very lonely,some of themwithout any support or assistance”.
Several NGOs and organizations that used to bring relief to the area have left. Still, Red Cross volunteers continue to respond to the outbreak, carrying out activities such as house and school disinfection and encouraging the population to practice handwashing and other protective measures. Volunteers also organize programs through community radio to ensure that information on reducing the spread of the pandemic reaches a large part of the population, and specialists are available to address questions from listeners. CRC also works to stop the spread of misinformation, which can be spread through rumors circulating in the community. In addition, community feedback is collected and analyzed to meet information needs evolving over time.
Cameroon Red Cross is not just responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. CRC has been simultaneously responding to cholera outbreaks over the past year in the country. Through experience, the National Society knows the importance of detecting an epidemic before it spreads to save lives, protect livelihoods, and sustain long-term development. Well-trained and motivated CRC volunteers like Um Antoine visit members of their own communities, providing sensitization on the signs and symptoms of acute watery diarrhea, the seasonality of cholera outbreaks, and the need to report severe cases to volunteers or health centers as soon as possible.“We use available communication channels like megaphones, posters, social networks, and the radio to disseminate protection measures against cholera and raise awareness about transmission through contaminated food or water. We also work with the population to adopt hygiene measures to eradicate cholera from their communities”.
To reinforce its response in the fight against Covid-19, cholera, and other emergencies, CRC must continuously strengthen the capacity of its volunteers and staff at headquarters and in branches. Over the past years, CRC’s leadership, management, and operational teams have discussed the importance of being prepared. According to Mr. Renauld Bodiong, Director of Cooperation of the Cameroon Red Cross: “The effectiveness of the response depends on the initial preparation of the National Society. Therefore, it is important, and even essential, for a National Society to engage in the Preparedness for Effective Response (PER Approach) that is an institutional approach to NS Preparedness to assess systematically, measure, and analyze its strengths and gaps response system to take action. Always trying to work from an effective, proactive and innovative perspective”.
Upon request from the CRC, theInternational Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),the Swedish and the French Red Cross joined forces to organize, as part of the PER Approach process, an assessment of CRC’s capacitytoprepare for andrespond to various types of hazards, and support the CRC with the identification of its existing strengths and opportunities for further development.
The COVID-19 context posed a serious problem for the process to start, especially with the travel restrictions put in place as part of COVID-19 preventive measures everywhere.
As facilitators could not travel to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, due to travel restrictions related to Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2021, they provided technical support remotely from Canada, Greece, Russia, and Switzerland. Cameroon Red Cross branches don’t have internet access, and organizing interactive sessions remotely represented quite a challenge for all involved. Brand-new teleconferencing equipment was purchased and set up in Yaoundé, where 36 CRC participants were able to gather in a large meeting room, adhering to physical distancing recommendations. In addition, eight participants also got connected remotely from far regions of the country with the support of IFRC field offices.
Over the course of 5 days, the National Society checked its capacity to prepare for and respond to various types of emergencies, conducted an in-depth analysis of strengths and gaps, and built consensus around key priorities which require urgent attention. These priorities will form the basis of a work plan and feed into the National Society's strategic and operational planning and fundraising processes.
According to Bodiong, “It was very interesting to work online for the first time and be able to listen to everyone's input. For example, we identified that warehouses built in high-risk areas with pre-positioned equipment, well-trained volunteers, and adapted procedures would allow the CRC to respond effectively as quickly as possible to assist the victims of floods in many regularly affected departments of the far north region and prevent cholera outbreaks”.
The Cameroon Red Cross is now using evidence and recommendations from the PER Approach to guide the continuous strengthening of its disaster management systems to be better prepared to respond to emergencies that may occur in the future.
Preparing for disasters saves countless lives, speeds up people’s recovery and saves money. The IFRC supports National Societies to continually improve their local preparedness and response capacity—ultimately preventing and reducing the impacts of disasters on communities.
| Press release
Ebola outbreak in Guinea: Red Cross calls for a response that is “faster than the virus”
Conakry/Nairobi/Geneva, 15 February 2021 –A network of more than 700 trained Red Cross volunteers has been activated as part of a first wave of response to the new Ebola outbreak in the rural community of Gouéké in Guinea’s N’Zerekoreprefecture.
Drawing from theirexperienceduringthe2014–2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak,theRed Crossteams are rushing to contain further spread of the virus.
MohammedMukhier, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“Time is of the essence.The resurgence of the virus inGuineacomes at the worst possible time whenthe country isalreadyfacing theCOVID-19pandemic.There are reasons for fear, but there are also reasons for hope.While we are extremely concerned, we are also reassured bythelessons we learned from previous outbreaks, and by recent medical advances.”
More than 11,000 people were killed duringthe worst-everEbola outbreak in history in 2014-2016.
Mukhier said: “We need a response that is faster than the virus itself. Unless the response is swift, the health, economic and social impacts are likely to be immense for millions of peoplein a country witha relatively weak healthsystem, andwheremore than half of the population lives below the poverty line.”
In response to this new outbreak, the IFRC and Guinea Red Cross have activated their “epidemicpreparedness and response network”in the country.Through thissystem, Red Cross teamshavebeen helping communities prepare and prevent the spread of diseases.
Red Crossvolunteerswill provide services such as, contact tracing, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene and—if needed—safe burials.
Guinea Red Cross has almost 2,500 volunteers across the country which gives it extraordinary reach into communities.
| Press release
UNICEF, WHO, IFRC and MSF announce the establishment of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile
NEW YORK/ GENEVA, 12 JANUARY 2021: The four leading international health and humanitarian organizations announced today the establishment of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile to ensure outbreak response.
The effort to establish the stockpile was led by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The stockpile will allow countries, with the support of humanitarian organizations, to contain future Ebola epidemics by ensuring timely access to vaccines for populations at risk during outbreaks.
The injectable single-dose Ebola vaccine (rVSV∆G-ZEBOV-GP, live) is manufactured by Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) Corp. and developed with financial support from the US government. The European Medicines Agency licensed the Ebola vaccine in November 2019, and the vaccine is now prequalified by WHO, and licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration as well as in eight African countries.
Before achieving licensure, the vaccine was administered to more than 350,000 people in Guinea and in the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo under a protocol for “compassionate use”.
The vaccine, which is recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization for use in Ebola outbreaks as part of a broader set of Ebola outbreak response tools, protects against the Zaire ebolavirus species which is most commonly known to cause outbreaks.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is reminding us of the incredible power of vaccines to save lives from deadly viruses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Ebola vaccines have made one of the most feared diseases on earth preventable. This new stockpile is an excellent example of solidarity, science and cooperation between international organizations and the private sector to save lives.”
UNICEF manages the stockpile on behalf of the ICG which, as with stockpiles of cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines, will be the decision-making body for its allocation and release.
The stockpile is stored in Switzerland and ready to be shipped to countries for emergency response. The decision to allocate the vaccine will be made within 48 hours of receiving a request from a country; vaccines will be made available together with ultra-cold chain packaging by the manufacturer for shipment to countries within 48 hours of the decision. The targeted overall delivery time from the stockpile to countries is seven days.
“We are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key. This Ebola vaccine stockpile is a remarkable achievement - one that will allow us to deliver vaccines to those who need them the most as quickly as possible.”
As Ebola outbreaks are relatively rare and unpredictable, there is no natural market for the vaccine. Vaccines are only secured through the establishment of the stockpile and are available in limited quantities. The Ebola vaccine is reserved for outbreak response to protect people at the highest risk of contracting Ebola – including healthcare and frontline workers.
“This is an important milestone. Over the past decade alone we have seen Ebola devastate communities in West and Central Africa, always hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest,” said IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain. “Through each outbreak, our volunteers have risked their lives to save lives. With this stockpile, it is my hope that the impact of this terrible disease will be dramatically reduced.”
“The creation of an Ebola vaccine stockpile under the ICG is a positive step”, said Dr Natalie Roberts, Programme Manager, MSF Foundation. “Vaccination is one of the most effective measures to respond to outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases, and Ebola is no exception. An Ebola vaccine stockpile can increase transparency in the management of existing global stocks and the timely deployment of the vaccine where it’s most needed, something MSF has called for during recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
An initial 6,890 doses are now available for outbreak response with further quantities to be delivered into the stockpile this month and throughout 2021 and beyond. Depending on the rate of vaccine deployment, it could take 2 to 3 years to reach the SAGE-recommended level of 500,000 doses for the emergency stockpile of Ebola vaccines. WHO, UNICEF, Gavi and vaccine manufacturers are continuously assessing options to increase vaccine supply should global demand increase.
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| Press release
South Africa: Lessons of HIV/AIDS key to halting COVID-19 slide, says Red Cross
Johannesburg/Geneva, 7 August 2020 – A senior Red Cross official has warned that South Africa needed to learn lessons from the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS to help curb the rise in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, as the number crossed the half a million mark on 1 August 2020.
South Africa is the worst affected nation on the African continent, and currently has the fifth highest number of people testing positive worldwide, after the United States, Brazil, India and Russia.
Dr Michael Charles, the Head of the Southern Africa Country Cluster office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“This is a time to look back and look at the experiences of the past. South Africa was really the epicentre for HIV/AIDS, and we learnt so much from it. Yes it took a while before we could get it up and running in terms of our prevention methods, in terms of stigma, and these are the examples and the lessons learnt that we can bring to the fight against COVID.”
South Africa’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed on 5 March 2020. When the cases doubled every two days in the following three weeks, the country imposed an early lockdown, slowing the transmission. However, following the decision to ease the lockdown in July, the country has seen an exponential rise in cases, causing worldwide concern as it rapidly rose up the ranks of the world’s COVID-19 tally.
As of yesterday (5 August), South Africa had reported almost 530,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and almost 10,000 deaths. Last week, a record 572 deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours. These figures have confounded analysts who cannot explain the high rise in numbers but relatively low numbers in death. South Africa has a far lower death toll than other countries that have fewer confirmed cases, for example the UK.
Masks are still mandatory, strict government guidelines have been issued for hygiene practices on public transport like taxis, social distancing is promoted in all public spaces, bars and shebeens (informal drinking spots in townships) remain closed and gatherings like funerals prohibit more than 50 people at a time. Despite these measures, however, many South Africans within and outside the hotspots flout government prescriptions, with community feedback indicating that many believe the virus not to be real or not likely to affect them.
Stigma is an ongoing challenge, with humanitarian actors quoting behaviour similar to that seen during the AIDS pandemic, when people would rather not test, than know they have COVID-19 and be stigmatised or ostracised.
The IFRC’s Dr Charles said:
“It is really our responsibility to stop stigmatising people who have COVID, stop harassing people within the communities because of COVID, and it’s time for us to get together and fight the cause together. It is only then that we can say that we are winning the fight. At the moment unfortunately we are not winning it because our numbers are going up and up but am sure that once we change our attitude, once we bring the lessons learnt from the past, that is when we will start to see the numbers go down.”
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the South African Red Cross has partnered with the Department of Health to support in screening, testing and contact tracing in key hotspot areas. Ongoing parallel hygiene promotion and behavior change messaging accompany all Red Cross activities to increase health awareness among the general public and targeted communities. Media Communication and Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) activities have been rolled out to the affected and non-affected communities by Red Cross volunteers. During lockdown, the Red Cross has been providing food to homeless people and other highly affected groups, with a focus on people living in informal settlements.
Placing communities at the centre of the Ebola response
In many Ebola-affected areas, years of conflict has eroded basic services and created mistrust in the community. Many communities feel that the response is not addressing their broader humanitarian needs. On some occasions, this mistrust has led to confrontations. DRC Red Cross teams have faced incidents of violence and aggression from communities resisting safe and dignified burial protocols since the start of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu.It is clear that some vulnerable communities do not trust Ebola responders, which stops them from accessing health care. There may be many more potential cases in communities that we are unaware of, who are not accessing lifesaving care and may be further transmitting the virus within their communities.Communities hold the key to responding to the Ebola outbreak.Without communities, Ebola cannot be eliminated. We need to listen to community concerns and fears, plan together with them and adapt our response in order to create trust and acceptance by humanitarian actors.Red Cross volunteers are playing a vital role in maintaining a strong dialogue with communities, ensuring questions, misbelieves and rumours are discussed and addressed regularly. In partnership with the US Centre of Disease Control, Red Cross volunteers are collecting rumours, suspicions and concerns into a first-of-its-kind feedback and tracking system that has coded over 394,000 feedback points. This is shared with the rest of the humanitarian community to help address fears and misinformation as well as adapt and change operational approaches, based on the needs of the community.Working with Ebola survivors to help tackle myths and rumoursTo help tackle the fear and mistrust associated with Ebola, Red Cross is also working with survivors. People like 25-year-old carpenter, Machozi, has an incredible story to tell — and an important message for his community. [caption id="attachment_56517" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Machozi, 25-year old carpenter and Ebola survivor. Photo: ICRC[/caption]“This illness is real and it kills,” says Machozi, who just a few months earlier had contracted this lethal disease and survived.But he is now living proof that you can also survive. Machozi is one of many in the response efforts. Every day, volunteers are knocking on doors in the community, providing information on how to prevent, detect and respond to Ebola. They are hosting radio talk shows, setting up mobile cinemas and going house-to-house, sensitizing vulnerable communities, including people with disabilities, children and women’s groups.“We have to unite and work together to fight against Ebola,” he says.“Take me as living testimony. It is possible to save the community and survive Ebola if everyone, our young people above all, engage in sensitizing our communities to the idea that Ebola is not a considered a punishment or an invented disease. If everyone is involved, we can end this disease.”Engaging communities pays off[caption id="attachment_56521" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Volunteers sensitize community members on safe and dignified burials in Butembo, DR Congo. Photo: IFRC[/caption]We are seeing huge success when we address core community concerns. The success rate of Red Cross safe and dignified burials has remained consistently high at 80 per cent, while negative feedback has dropped over time as a result of quality community engagement work and changes in the Red Cross approaches based on feedback data. In addition, as a result of our community engagement, community resistance for safe and dignified burials have drastically declined from 79 per cent in the first two months of the operation to 8 per cent now.Special thanks to our generous donors: American Red Cross, Austrian Red Cross, Belgian Red Cross, British Red Cross, China Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, Finnish Red Cross, Icelandic Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, Kuwait Red Crescent, Norwegian Red Cross, Monaco Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Netherlands Red Cross, Turkish Red Crescent, Government of Austria, Government of United Kingdom (DFID), European Commission (DG ECHO), Italian Government Bilateral Emergency Fund, Government of Norway, Paul G Allen Family Foundation, Government of Spain, Government of Switzerland, Government of Canada, The Dutch Government, USAID, Western Union Foundation and WHO.
Mothers of measles patients at risk as cases continue to rise
By Leena Reikko, IFRCFor the past several weeks, the Philippine Red Cross emergency healthcare unit in the Philippines have been tending to the youngest of patients, children and babies coughing with fever, and whose bodies and faces are covered in red rashes. In early February, the local authorities declared a measles outbreak and since then 355 people have died, most of them children under 5 years of age.But these patients are not the only ones at risk. Mothers treating their children in hospitals are now threatened by the same virus.“We are in an acute phase of a chronic humanitarian situation. It is not only one generation that missed the measles vaccination. While the mothers do not have antibodies to pass to their children, they themselves are at risk too,” says Gopal Mukherjee, the health programme manager with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Philippines.Many communities living in overcrowded barangays and in remote areas are also facing a challenge in getting to vaccination centers. Because of this, some parents push vaccinations to later dates, and even forget how important it is to vaccinate. This situation is worsened by the low level of immunity among communities in the Philippines, which makes the virus just as deadly after the peak of the measles crisis. While it is a contagious virus, measles can be easily avoided through vaccination.“My son was not vaccinated because we have been so busy. It has just not been possible”, says Rosaly Abitona, 35, while she comforts her one-year-old son, John Carl, who had fallen ill a day earlier and taken to hospital.The development of measles in the Philippines has been alarming. There was a 547 per cent spike from 4,000 cases of measles in 2017 to 21,812 cases in 2018. By the end of March this year, almost 26,000 people have been infected.The Philippine Red Cross with has carried out mass vaccinations in the worst-affected districts, immunizing more than 15,500 children to date. They are also running campaigns to raise awareness on the importance of vaccinations to stop this virus from spreading further.