Though we’re living in an increasingly digital world, radio remains an important source of information, entertainment, and connection in countries across the globe.This is especially true among rural communities, for whom radio is often the most trusted—or sometimes only—source of news and information for miles around.Imagine you’re living in one of these communities, far from the nearest health centre. You notice people are falling sick and you don’t know why. Seeking answers, you tune into your local radio station.The presenter is talking about the ‘mystery illness’ in a panicked way, saying how gruesome the symptoms are, how many people have died, and how you should avoid infected people at all costs. He’s heard the illness could be some kind of curse, and that apparently drinking salty water can protect you.Hearing this report, and with no other sources to turn to, you’d probably feel scared and unsure of what to do.But imagine you tuned in and heard a totally different show. The presenter calmly offers practical information about the disease—its name, symptoms, how it spreads, and measures you can take to protect yourself. He interviews a local doctor you know and trust who responds to common questions and concerns.You’d feel reassured and have the information you need to keep you and your family safe.In several countries, the IFRC and our National Societies are partnering with local media to do exactly this: provide life-saving information before, during, and after health outbreaks.As part of the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), we’ve been working with the charity BBC Media Action to train journalists and Red Cross Societies from seven countries in Lifeline Programming: special media programming that provides accurate, practical, and timely information in a health or humanitarian crisis.National Societies regularly partner with media outlets to broadcast helpful information that keeps communities healthy and safe from a wide range of diseases. Let’s look at some examples.KenyaIn Bomet and Tharaka Nithi counties, Kenya Red Cross teams up with local radio stations and county health services, reaching hundreds of thousands of people with useful health messages on how to prevent diseases such as anthrax, rabies and cholera.Information is shared in simple language. And listeners can call in to ask questions or suggest health topics for discussion.“At first, media was known for reporting two things, maybe: politics, and bad things that have happened in society. But the Red Cross helped us […] use the media in educating the people about disease,” explains Sylvester Rono, a journalist with Kass FM trained in Lifeline programming.“I am now proud to say that this has really helped our communities. Our people are now appreciating why we should vaccinate our pets, why we should go to the hospital when we have a bite, why we should report any [health] incident, and when you see any sign of diseases, be it rabies, be it anthrax, be it cholera […] the importance of reporting it earlier,” he adds.CameroonIn late 2021, a cholera outbreak threatened the lives of communities in the North region of Cameroon—a rural part of the country where communities are widely dispersed.As part of its response, the Cameroon Red Cross teamed up with local radio stations—launching a series of community radio programmes to share information on how people could protect themselves, what symptoms to look out for, and where to access help if they fell sick.Themes for the programmes were selected in partnership with community leaders. And after the shows broadcast, Red Cross volunteers headed out into their communities to reinforce the messages shared on air through door-to-door visits.“The radio programme is very good, because it has given me practical information. I had a cholera case in my family, but based on the measures I heard on the radio, I was able to save my sister’s child who was sick,” explained Talaga Joseph, a listener who called into FM Bénoué—one of the participating radio stations.Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)In DRC, harmful rumours and misinformation about COVID-19 and other diseases have spread across the country in recent years. For example, some people believed the COVID-19 vaccine was a source of income for the government and had no benefit to society, while others believed the measles vaccine was less effective than traditional remedies involving cassava leaves.To address these rumours, DRC Red Cross volunteers went door-to-door to collect community feedback and record common myths and misconceptions. After analysing the feedback, DRC Red Cross staff took to the airwaves—launching interactive radio shows to directly address and debunk health misinformation and provide trusted advice.For example, in Kongo Central province, the DRC Red Cross partners with Radio Bangu to produce a show called ‘Red Cross School’. Listeners call in to check information on different diseases, ask questions, and discover what support they can access from the Red Cross.“The collaboration with the Red Cross is very good and has enabled listeners to learn more about its activities and how they can prevent different illnesses and epidemics. The Red Cross broadcasts are so popular they have increased our overall number of listeners in the area we cover,” says Rigobert Malalako, Station Manager at Radio Bangu.--The activities with local radio featured in this article are just a few examples of media partnerships developed through the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), CP3 supports communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other partners to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more, sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Newsletter.You can also access the following resources:BBC Media Action’s Guide for the media on communicating in public health emergencies (available in multiple languages)BBC Media Action’s Lifeline programming websiteIFRC Epidemic Control Toolkit
Geneva/Nairobi, 07 December 2023: In response to the growing hunger crisis across sub-Saharan Africa, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is amplifying its call to action amidst growing concerns of crisis fatigue. To this end, the IFRC has revised its funding appeal to 318 million Swiss Francs, now aiming to reach 18 countries.
More than a year has passed since the initial launch of the Africa hunger crisis appeal, yet the needs continue to outpace support received. Originally set at 215 million Swiss Francs for 16 countries, only 59 million Swiss Francs has been raised. This humanitarian crisis, intensified by recurring droughts, El Niño-induced floods, conflicts and economic downturns, demands an immediate response to prevent widespread suffering, loss of lives and livelihoods.
Around 157 million people in 35 countries across sub-Saharan Africa face acute food insecurity. Despite early warnings from African Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, more funding and resources are needed. The Horn of Africa has been particularly hard-hit, enduring its longest dry spell on record with five consecutive dry seasons. In contrast, regions like eastern Kenya, parts of South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania experienced heavier than usual rains during the October-December season, leading to flooding that further aggravated the situation for those already facing acute food insecurity. This mix of extreme weather conditions, along with ongoing conflicts, has led to varied harvest outcomes across the continent.
Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are witnessing heart-wrenching conditions where many, including women and children, survive on less than one meal a day.
Mohamed Omer Mukhier, Regional Director for Africa, emphasized the continued urgency:
“In the past year, the dire need for resources in tackling the current hunger crisis has been evident with millions of people deprived of water, food and health services. While this crisis has intensified, it has been largely overshadowed by more visible crises over the past year. Considering its magnitude across the continent, we urgently call for expanded support to pursue our collective lifesaving and life-sustaining mobilization.”
These countries are currently at the heart of the hunger crisis: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
African Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have been instrumental in providing life-saving assistance to millions affected by this crisis. So far, they have reached 1.53 million people. Most of the aid provided has been water and sanitation services, reaching over 1.2 million people. Additionally, over 725,000 people received cash assistance and over 450,000 received health and nutrition support.
This underscores the IFRC's commitment to transitioning from immediate relief to sustainable, long-term resilience strategies in the region. The revised appeal will focus on improving agricultural practices, fostering peace and stability and creating economic opportunities.
For more details, visit the Africa Hunger Crisis appeal page.
For audio-visual material, visit the IFRC newsroom.
To request an interview, contact: [email protected]
Anne Macharia: +254 720 787 764
Tommaso Della Longa: +41 79 708 43 67
Mrinalini Santhanam: +41 76 381 50 06
Building Trust during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Humanitarian Settings is our global programme supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to build trust in public health responses and in the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
It provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies—particularly those in complex emergencies and protracted crisis—so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services.
The NSIA can award up to one million CHF of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 CHF over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from elsewhere.
This year, the NSIA is pleased to announce that the following six National Societies have been selected for accelerator funding in 2022:
Burundi Red Cross
Kenya Red Cross Society
Malawi Red Cross Society
Russian Red Cross Society
Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Zambia Red Cross Society
These National Societies will receive a significant investment of up to one million CHF, to be used over a maximum of five years, to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability. Three of these National Societies (Syria, Malawi and Zambia) previously received NSIA bridge awards, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach towards sustainable development.
In addition, 14 other National Societies will receive up to 50,000 CHF in bridge funding: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Sierra Leone.
In total, the NSIA will allocate 5.4 million CHF to 20 different National Societies this year. This is more than double the funds allocated in 2021 and represents the largest annual allocation since the NSIA’s launch in 2019.
This landmark allocation is made possible thanks to the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ National Societies. Both the ICRC and IFRC have also strongly reinforced their commitment, by allocating 10 million CHF and 2 million CHF respectively over the coming years.
The Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under-Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination, and Olivier Ray, ICRC Director for Mobilization, Movement and Partnership, said:
“We are pleased to have been able to select 20 National Societies’ initiatives for funding by the NSIA in 2022. Our vision and plans are becoming a reality. We see Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies operating in fragile contexts accessing funds for sustainably developing to deliver and scale up their humanitarian services. This is localization in action and at scale.
It is particularly encouraging to see that the NSIA’s two-stage approach, with initial funds providing a springboard to help National Societies prepare for increased investment aimed at achieving sustained impact on the organization and vulnerable communities, is working. We hope to see many more National Societies planning and following this journey.
2022 will be remembered as a milestone for the NSIA. Our ambition is to maintain this momentum and continue to grow in the years to come. We see this mechanism as a valuable and strategic lever to support National Societies in fragile and crisis settings to undertake their journey towards sustainable development.”
For more information, please click here to visit the NSIA webpage.
Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing one of the most alarming food crises in decades—immense in both its severity and geographic scope.Roughly 146 million people are suffering from acute food insecurity and require urgent humanitarian assistance. The crisis is driven by a range of local and global factors, including insecurity and armed conflict, extreme weather events, climate variability and negative macroeconomic impacts. Through this regional Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting many Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Africa to protect the lives, livelihoods and prospects of millions of people.
Beni/Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 16 December 2021—The Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) joins the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in celebrating the end of the 13th Ebola outbreak in the country.
The Minister of Public Health, Hygiene and Prevention of the DRC, officially declared, this 16 December 2021, the end of the 13th outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease which resurfaced on 8 October 2021, in the health zone of Beni in the province of North Kivu.
This declaration comes 42 days after the last patient tested negative.
A cumulative 11 cases were recorded during this 13th outbreak, including 8 deaths and 2 cured.
David Fisher, Head of the Country Cluster Delegation of the IFRC who is in DRC said:
“We are so happy to arrive at the declaration of the end of the 13th Ebola epidemic today. With support from IFRC, the DRC Red Cross and its local volunteers have been working every day in close coordination with health authorities and other partners to achieve this. And we will not be letting down our guard. Over the next few months of the surveillance period, we are expanding our reach to ensure that no new cases fall through the cracks.”
When the 13th outbreak was declared, the DRC Red Cross mobilized and deployed 215 trained volunteers to help contain the spread of the virus by providing services such as Community Engagement and Accountability (CEA), Prevention and Control of Infections (IPC), as well as Safe and Dignified Burials (SDB), with the support of the IFRC.
Volunteers responded to 429 alerts, provided 116 safe and dignified burials, secured 345 bodies, 28,708 people were reached by Ebola messages and 8,851 community returns were received and analysed.
A focus was also placed on vaccination.
Building on lessons learned and capacities developed in n the follow-up responses to the Ebola outbreaks across the country, volunteers have adapted messages and activities to the context of COVID-19. They shared vital information in public places, on community radio stations, on social media and through messaging apps. Red Cross teams have also set up "rapid response teams" made up of local volunteers who work with local health authorities to transfer positive cases of COVID-19 to safe treatment centres.
Grégoire Mateso, the National President of the DRC Red Cross explains the work carried out by the volunteers in these terms:
“Our volunteers have spared no effort to help those affected in the Beni health zone and we will continue to provide necessary services for the preparation and response to epidemics in the communities in order to preserve the well-being of populations. However, the end of an epidemic is the beginning of this preparation of the community to resist in case another does. Thus, the Red Cross will always be alongside communities in order to provide an adequate response in the event of an epidemic in order to support community resilience through the implementation of a more sustainable community health approach."
Despite the end of this outbreak, it is essential to maintain vigilance and strengthen post-epidemic prevention and surveillance activities in order to avoid the resurgence of the virus.
The epidemic did not spread outside of Beni. In addition to effective care and monitoring mechanisms, the success in the response is justified by a high rate of people already vaccinated against Ebola in the region, especially during the 10th epidemic, the deadliest in history of this disease.
For more information, contact:
Croix-Rouge de la RDC: Kally Maluku, +243 818 966 243, [email protected]
IFRC (DRC): Kelly Kulemfuka Minzas, +243 850 749 025, [email protected]
IFRC (Africa Region): Euloge Ishimwe, +254 735 437 906, [email protected]
Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 03 June 2021—The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned that a multi-hazard emergency looms large following the eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of 11.6 million Swiss francs to assist 80,000 displaced people in DRC and Rwanda and is calling for urgent support from donors and partners to help scale up operations.
Mohammed Omer Mukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa, said:
“The danger is not over, and more work lies ahead. While volcanic activity seems to have subsided, the recent eruption has left a trail of immense humanitarian needs. Hundreds have lost their homes and they urgently need shelter, food, clean water and healthcare. Families have also been separated amid the chaos that followed the eruption.”
Based on the requests for family reunification received by the Red Cross, at least 540 children were separated from their families after the eruption. Out of those 540 requests, Red Cross teams have reunited 64 missing children with their families. Many more are still missing. Over 1,722 houses and other structures have been destroyed, leaving about 30,000 people homeless and displaced. Some were displaced internally within DRC—others moved to Rwanda, in Rubavu.
Karamaga Apollinaire, the Secretary General of the Rwanda Red Cross said:
“In the town of Rubavu, to which many Congolese refugees fled, we have had to manage the influx and the destruction of property caused by the continuous earthquakes. Schools, homes, markets and water lines have been destroyed, and residents are being evacuated to safer grounds. Rwanda Red Cross volunteers have been on the ground since the eruption, providing humanitarian assistance to both the refugees and local communities.”
The eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo comes at the worst possible time in DRC. With thousands of displaced people, amid an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, in one of the most dangerous environments in the world—the Red Cross is worried about the “multiplier effect” that this new emergency adds to an already complex situation.
“The population of North Kivu has been grappling with socio-economic challenges for decades and is currently one of the most food insecure locations in Africa. With every disaster, their means of coping are weakened further,” said Mukhier.
As a response, the Red Cross will support communities affected by multiple hazards and compounding humanitarian vulnerabilities caused by the eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo for a period of 12 months. Through the operation, Red Cross teams will provide services such as shelter; distribution of household items; water, sanitation and hygiene; healthcare; protection and psychosocial support, among others.
Grégoire Mateso Mbuta Way, President of the DRC Red Cross, said:
“Although this is a worrying humanitarian situation, we are reassured by the fact that our Red Cross teams are experienced in responding to emergencies caused by volcanic activity. Our teams played a key role in supporting people affected by the last major eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo in 2002. The IFRC and the Red Cross in DRC understand the local context very well and have worked together for years in eastern DRC, including during the recent response to Ebola.”
Immediately after the eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo, the IFRC released 359,213 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to help the DRC Red Cross to provide assistance to 12,500 people from local communities evacuated from areas close to the volcano. The Red Cross is urgently calling for support to the emergency appeal to help reach more people with life-saving assistance.
Goma/Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 18 November 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) joins the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in celebrating the end of the country’s 11th Ebola outbreak. This achievement marks the first time in about two and a half years since DRC was Ebola free.
However, the IFRC warns that today’s announcement does not spell the end of the considerable humanitarian challenges that the country is facing, including the ongoing COVID-19 emergency alongside long-standing economic and security issues.
The official end of the Ebola outbreak follows 42 days since the last patient tested negative and comes six months after a cluster of Ebola cases was detected in Equateur province in the country’s north-west. The outbreak, the second to affect Equateur and the third nationwide since 2018 – spread to 13 of the region’s 18 health zones.
Mohammed Omer Mukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said responders deserve a tremendous amount of recognition and thanks:
“The courage and dedication of frontline responders – including Red Cross volunteers – is a major factor in the successful response to this outbreak. Their work is even more remarkable given that it came at a time of tremendous additional uncertainty that was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank them, and we thank our donors and partners who joined us in ‘staying the course’.”
When the outbreak was first detected on June 1, more than 1,000 trained Red Cross volunteers were deployed immediately to help contain the spread of the virus. They screened over 279,177 people scattered over vast, densely forested areas. They also conducted more than 232 safe and dignified burials and reached more than 343,859 people with information sharing and accountability activities. Their actions come after three consecutive Red Cross responses since 2018 to the country’s 9th 10th and 11th Ebola outbreaks, bringing the total number of people reached with life-saving information to more than 4,892,531 million, with our teams leading more than 12,708 safe and dignified burials.
This milestone comes as the country continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Red Cross teams are building on lessons learned and capacities built during the response to Ebola outbreaks and adapting messaging and activities to the COVID-19 context. They are sharing lifesaving information in public places, on community radio stations, on social media and through messaging applications. Red Cross teams have also put in place ‘rapid response teams’ of local volunteers who collaborate with local health authorities to transfer positive COVID-19 cases to treatment centres safely.
Dr Jacques Katshishi, Secretary General for the DRC Red Cross, said it is not the time to leave vulnerable Congolese communities behind.
“Bringing Ebola to zero is a huge achievement, but now we are faced with our next challenge: keeping it there. Our teams within the DRC Red Cross are facing COVID-19 within a complex humanitarian and security environment, making the ongoing support of donors’ and partners’ vital to ensuring that the positive gains communities have made are not reversed. This is not a moment to be complacent: the world cannot afford a resurgence of Ebola in DR Congo. The time to prepare is now,” he said.
Goma/Nairobi/Geneva, 3 June 2020 –More than 150 trained Red Cross volunteers have been deployed as part of a first wave of response to the latest Ebola outbreak in the Équateur Province, in the western part of Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Dr Simon Missiri, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“The resurgence of the virus in Équateur province comes at the worst possible time, when we are already facing a double outbreak - COVID-19 and Ebola in East and West DR Congo - in one of the most complex and dangerous environments in the world.
“The health, economic and social impact has the potential to be huge for millions of people who have limited capacity to cope, as their access to healthcare, food security and safety nets is continuously being eroded by humanitarian emergencies and the ongoing conflict.”
The 11th Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka, the capital of Équateur Province, was officially declared by the DR Congo Ministry of Health on 31 May 2020. This area was previously affected by an outbreak between May and July 2018. It adds an additional layer of suffering for a population that is already struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DR Congo Red Cross has been on the frontline of all previous Ebola outbreaks in the country and has developed a strong in-country capacity with 1,600 trained and highly skilled volunteers. Crucially, these have successfully built trust with communities. During the most recent outbreak in the eastern DR Congo, these volunteers provided information on prevention to almost 3 million people and conducted over 28,000 successful safe and dignified burials for confirmed or suspected Ebola cases as part of the 10th outbreak.
Robert Ghosn, Ebola Operations Manager for the IFRC said:
“When it comes to containing epidemics before these turn into large-scale humanitarian disasters you need not only to act local, with local responders taking ownership of the response, but also to act fast.
“As the global pandemic of COVID-19 has broughtthe worldtoits knees, we at the Red Cross have lost no time in scaling up activities in DR Congo. This is not the time to look away from the dire suffering of Congolese people or the consequences for millions of them would be unimaginable.”
Goma/Nairobi/Geneva, 15 January 2020 – Two volunteers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) Red Cross were seriously injured following an attack during a safe and dignified burial of a suspected Ebola case near Mambasa, in eastern DR Congo on Monday, 13 January. The volunteers are now in hospital, receiving medical care and psychosocial support.
DR Congo 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 and Ituri. In this most recent attack, the family had consented to the burial but rumours and panic quickly spread among the community resulting in a violent assault against the Red Cross team.
Grégoire Mateso Mbuta, President of the DR Congo Red Cross Society said:
“This incident is a stark reminder of the serious risks our volunteers face when they carry out the dangerous task of safe and dignified burials. While we deplore any violence towards our volunteers or staff, we understand first hand, the fear and frustration that communities harbour and shall continue to render the needed services to the affected populations.”
The current Ebola outbreak, which began on 1 August 2018, is unfolding in an area affected by a two decades-long conflict that has claimed countless lives and raised fear and hostility towards responders.
Building community trust and acceptance has been at the core of the Red Cross’ Ebola response operations.This investment has paid off. Since the beginning of the outbreak nearly 20,000 successful safe and dignified burials have been conducted with a consistently high success rate.
Red Cross volunteers continue to work within affected communities, listening to concerns and gathering feedback that is then analysed and used to provide improved support to people in need. As a result, community resistance for safe and dignified burials has drastically declined over the course of the operation.
Nicole Fassina, Ebola Operations Manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“While we experienced an overall improvement in community’s acceptance of burials, this attack underscores why we cannot become complacent. The Red Cross will continue to engage and involve communities in the Ebola response if we want to bring this outbreak to end.”
Goma/Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 28 November 2019 –Several violent attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) have killed, wounded and displaced many. Those killed included four Ebola responders.
The President of DR Congo Red Cross, Grégoire Mateso, said:
“We are profoundly saddened by the tragic killings of people, including several Ebola responders in Mangina and Biakatou following violent attacks. We are also extremely worried by the escalating violence in Beni.”
The spike in violence in recent days has also forced communities to flee for their safety, making it easier for the virus to spread to neighbouring areas. Mangina and Biakatou are areas where there are the highest rates of Ebola cases at the moment. Red Cross teams in Beni are unable to travel due to the ongoing violence, and insecurity in other areas have put Red Cross Ebola activities on hold.
“In the last few months we have made major progress in the Ebola response: Cases are decreasing, there are less deaths in the community and a growing community acceptance and involvement in the Ebola response,”said Jamie LeSueur, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)’s Head of Operations for the Ebola Response. “But violence and insecurity are major factors that set us back and threaten to reverse all the positive gains we have made in this response.”
More than 1,100 DRC Red Cross volunteers have been engaging with communities to address fear, suspicion and concerns;conducting safe and dignified burials, and helping improve infection prevention and control in health facilities and prisons.These teams have been critical to preventing thousands of infections and saving the many lives.
“Without Red Cross staff and volunteers having access to respond in hot spot areas, the risk of Ebola’s spread is extremely high. We’re worried about what this could mean for our frontline staff and volunteers who are risking their lives every day to engage with affected communities,”said Grégoire Mateso.
“We call on all actors to exercise restraint and respect civilians and humanitarian and Ebola responders.”
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 rumours
To 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.
“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 andgoing 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 aconsidered a punishment or an invented disease. If everyone is involved, we can end this disease.”
Engaging communities pays off
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, SpanishRed 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.
Nairobi/Geneva 27 August 2019—The availability of an effective vaccine against Ebola and the recent confirmation of two effective treatments do not negate the importance of building trust and understanding in communities affected by the outbreak, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
This warning comes as the death toll for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) approaches 2,000 and as the total number of cases reaches 3,000.
Dr Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC’s Director of Health and Care said:
“The importance of these new treatments – and the continued roll out of vaccines – are not to be underestimated. But alone they are not enough. Now is the time to double down on efforts to engage at-risk communities. For the treatments to work, people need to trust them and the medical staff who administer them. This will take time, resources and a lot of hard work.”
Continued high levels of distrust mean that many Ebola patients are delaying or avoiding going to health facilities. This reluctance significantly decreases their chance of survival, even with access to the newest treatments. It also dramatically increases the risk that the virus will spread to family members and other care givers. More than 42 per cent of alerts that Red Cross receives to bury a loved one are coming from a death at home.
IFRC’s Capobianco said:
“We are asking people to leave the safety of their homes when they fall sick to go to an isolated cell in an Ebola treatment centres where their lives are in the hands of complete strangers. We are asking communities to change the way they care for the sick and the dead in ways that go against their traditions. And we are doing all this in communities that have learned to distrust outsiders following decades of violence and unrest.
“This is our biggest challenge. It is a behavioural challenge, not a medical one. And unfortunately, there is no magic pill to change behaviours.”
Two new treatments that are hailed as an effective cure against Ebola are currently being administered in Ebola treatment centres all over North Kivu and Ituri. IFRC believes that if people understand that the treatment can save lives and can reduce the risk of transmission to their loved ones, they are more likely to seek health care early.
In addition to community outreach and engagement, Red Cross volunteers continue to carry out around 20 safe and dignified burials every day. Volunteers and other burial teams have responded to more than 11,000 safe and dignified burial requests across North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
IFRC is appealing for about 43 million Swiss francs to continue safe and dignified burials and to support 15.5 million people with community outreach, prevention, and preparedness measures. So far, just over half of the amount needed has been received.
Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 1 Aug 2019 – A year on, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) continues to spread into new areas across North Kivu and Ituri. An average of 13 new cases are reported daily, in the last three months, as insecurity, community resistance and massive unmet humanitarian needs continue to hamper the international response.
Dr Emanuele Capobianco, Director of Health and Care at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“There is now a collective recognition that this terrible virus can only be stopped in its tracks when communities are engaged and placed at the centre of the response efforts.”
Alongside Ebola, ongoing measles and cholera outbreaks in DR Congo have killed more than 1,800 people in the last year. In addition, two decades of violence and conflict have deprived millions of access to basic services like health and education.
“Communities continue to be suspicious of the Ebola response because they feel that it is not addressing their broader needs. Moving forward in this response, we need to ensure that we are adequately responding to the priorities and concerns of these communities. This means expanding the response to include broader health and humanitarian needs.”
The confirmation on 30 July of a second case in Goma has underlined the importance of scaling up efforts to fight Ebola. The Red Cross has already been working in Goma, preparing communities, ensuring they understand how to prevent infections as well as recognize and respond to potential symptoms.
Since the beginning of this outbreak, Red Cross response efforts have focused on community engagement and safe and dignified burials. Volunteers are working within the affected communities, listening to concerns and gathering feedback that is then analysed and used to provide improved support to people in need.
In areas where Red Cross community engagement volunteers are working, there have been more than 9,400 community requests for safe and dignified burials. More than 1,500 Red Cross volunteers have been trained to do this difficult and dangerous work and over 1.3 million people have been reached with information to protect themselves and their communities.
Kampala/Nairobi/Geneva, 12 June – Red Cross teams are on high alert following the confirmation of the first Ebola case in Uganda.
According to the Ministry of Health, a five-year-old boy from Uganda returned from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) on 10 June. The child presented with Ebola symptoms and was transferred to an Ebola treatment unit in Bwera.
Robert Kwesiga, Uganda Red Cross Secretary General, said:
“This is a worrying development, but we have been preparing for this day for months now. We have been scaling up our efforts, in close coordination with government and other actors to help communities prepare for Ebola, and to contain its spread.”
The Uganda border is close to the epicentre of the DR Congo outbreak, which is now the second largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded.
Uganda Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has trained hundreds of community-based volunteers in anticipation of the potential spread of Ebola. Volunteers have been trained in Ebola screening, as well as in risk communication and community engagement, community-based surveillance, and psychosocial support. In addition, Red Cross has procured equipment for safe and dignified burials and has provided training and technical support to Ministry of Health which will lead on the delivery of safe and dignified burials in Uganda.
Andreas Sandin, IFRC Operations Coordinator, said:
“We are ready to adapt and expand our support, but we must take stock of the lessons we have learned from the response in DR Congo.
“Epidemics and pandemics start and end in the communities – we need to ensure this remains a community-led response to ensure we prevent Ebola’s further spread.”
IFRC is also supporting the National Red Cross Societies of Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan to prepare for the potential spread of Ebola into their countries.
Geneva/Nairobi, 4 June 2019 – Aid organisations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) need to “reset” their response to the current Ebola outbreak and place more emphasis on understanding and addressing persistent community fears, mistrust and concerns.
Nicole Fassina, Ebola Virus Disease Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“The Ebola response effort has undoubtedly saved lives and helped prevent the spread of this disease beyond North Kivu and Ituri. We’ve now reached more than 2,000 Ebola cases and the numbers being reported have risen dramatically. We need to reset the response, and place communities at the centre of all of our efforts.”
More than 1,300 people have died in what is now the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Worryingly, the number of Ebola cases has increased significantly in recent weeks to between 15-20 new cases per day.
This escalation is at least in part due to the precarious security situation in the affected area. Ebola responders do not only face resistance from communities but are also exposed to threats and attacks by armed groups. IFRC is concerned that partners limit their use of security or military support as much as possible. Increasing armed protection for Ebola responders may aggravate the tensions that already exist between communities and responders.
With the announcement last week by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of a scale up of the Ebola response, now is the time to critically look at how we change our approach with communities.
“We welcome the commitment of partners to scale up the response to this outbreak. But we need to ensure we do this in the right way. As a humanitarian community, we need to invest more in locally-led response approaches. This outbreak will only end when communities are engaged and leading the response efforts themselves.”
Geneva, 16 May 2019 – The international community must urgently increase its investment in Ebola response efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before the outbreak escalates further, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Despite some successes in containing the outbreak, there has been an alarming increase in new cases in recent weeks. Twenty per cent of the 1,671 cases recorded up to 11 May occurred during the last three weeks, according to figures from the DR Congo Ministry of Health. Since the outbreak started in August 2018, more than 1,100 people have died, making this the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC’s Director of Health and Care, said:
“The Ebola response faces a double jeopardy of insecurity and critical underfunding. The security situation is complex, and will require a range of responses, including continued increased community engagement. However, the funding situation could be fixed. We need more investment now.
“We cannot afford for Ebola to become entrenched in North Kivu and Ituri, nor can we allow it to spread to urban areas where it will be much more difficult to control. And we cannot allow it to cross international borders.”
Red Cross volunteers come from the affected communities and are constantly engaging with them to address fear, suspicion and concerns about outside help as well as the efficacy of the Ebola response.
Their work is often painstaking. But it is successful. For example, in areas where Red Cross community engagement volunteers have been able to work, community requests for safe and dignified burials have sharply increased. More than 5,000 burials have now been requested since the outbreak started. The success rate of the burials has remained consistently high at around 80 per cent.
Safe and dignified burials are important because of the dangers presented by Ebola-infected bodies. For example, during the 2013-16 West Africa outbreak, 60 per cent of all Ebola cases in Guinea were linked to traditional burials. In parts of Sierra Leone, this figure climbed to 80 per cent.
“In DR Congo, we have trained more than 1,500 volunteers to conduct burials in a manner that is safe, dignified and culturally sensitive. They are critical to preventing thousands of infections and saving the lives of friends and families in their communities,” said Capobianco.
“Now is not the time to let our guard down. Now is the time to double down. Collectively, we have the tools to contain, control and end this outbreak.”
Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 4 May 2019 – The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu is worsening as the death toll surpasses 1,000 on the back of an alarming number of cases reported in recent days across multiple hotspots.
In the past week, 23 cases were reported in one day, the highest since the start of the outbreak in August 2018. Major security challenges and lack of community acceptance of the response continue to hamper efforts to end the outbreak.
Worryingly, many of these deaths are occurring within communities which means that people are not seeking care and treatment in health centres. This is accelerating the spread of Ebola within communities.
Nicole Fassina, Ebola Virus Disease Coordinator with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“We are at a critical juncture where we need to step up our support to communities that are facing greater risk of infection, yet Ebola responders face massive security challenges and a lack of resources for the response. An under-resourced operation creates a very real risk of an international spread of Ebola.”
Ebola response activities are costly. Safe and dignified burials are crucial to containing the outbreak. But they are also expensive--costing up to 500,000 Swiss francs a month-- as they require specialized equipment which is often not reusable and must be disposed of after each single burial.
Despite security challenges, Red Cross volunteers continue to carry out safe and dignified burials where possible. Volunteers and other burial teams have responded to more than 5,000 safe and dignified burial requests across North Kivu and Ituri provinces. They have been successful nearly 80 per cent of the time.
“Building community trust takes time and resources, but we have seen the investment pay off when it comes to acceptance of Red Cross safe and dignified burial teams. Since October 2018 the number of safe and dignified burials requested from communities has tripled, and this kind of work needs to continue if we are going to beat this disease,” said Nicole Fassina.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an Emergency Appeal to support 15.5 million people to undertake preparedness and prevention work to stop the spread of the disease but has only received just under half the funding required.
IFRC is also supporting localized efforts to keep the outbreak from spreading to Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. This includes supporting National Societies to mobilize and train volunteers, procure equipment and put in place preparedness measures should the outbreak spread to these countries.
Nairobi/Geneva, 11 April 2019 –The deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is worsening as trust in the response effort falters, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
This warning follows confirmation of 18 new Ebola cases on Tuesday (9 April) – the highest single day figure in the now eight month-long outbreak. DR Congo’s Health Ministry also reported that 10 died people from Ebola on Tuesday, including eight who died in their communities having not sought treatment and support.
“This is a very distressing development,” said Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC’s Director of Health and Care. “The bottom line is that Ebola is now spreading faster, and many people are no longer seeking care. It is clear that some vulnerable communities do not trust Ebola responders.”
Redoubling efforts to engage with these communities is critical, according to Capobianco.
“Trust can be built by going community to community, working with local leaders and villagers, listening to their concerns with empathy, and incorporating their feedback and preferences into how we work,” he said.
In-depth community engagement is central to the Red Cross operation in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in eastern DR Congo, where more than 700 Red Cross volunteers from Ebola-affected communities are at work. They have reached more than 1 million people with locally adapted information and have collected more than 130,000 “pieces” of community feedback.
“Our research and experience show that when in-depth community engagement takes place, acceptance of outside assistance improves significantly,” said Capobianco.
For example, intense community outreach and engagement in and around the city of Butembo has had a direct and significant impact on the willingness of communities to welcome, and in some cases, request Red Cross ‘safe and dignified burial teams’. The safe burial of people who have died from Ebola is a critical intervention in preventing disease spread, as dead bodies are particularly infectious.
The efforts of the Red Cross and other responders are also hampered by considerable funding shortfalls. Last month, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – IFRC, and the International Committee of the Red Cross – launched a revised emergency appeal for 31.5 million Swiss francs to support response activities in DR Congo as well as preparedness activities in neighbouring countries. So far, only 11.1 million Swiss francs have been received.
Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 20 March 2019 – The Secretary General of the world’s largest humanitarian network has called on organizations responding to Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to place more emphasis on deepening understanding of communities and partnering with them to respond to their needs.
Speaking at the end of a three day visit to the DRC, Elhadj As Sy, the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“Communities are key to ending Ebola. Only with their engagement and active participation will we be able to stop this outbreak. Fear, resistance and even denial are often encountered when people are overwhelmed by shocks, hazards and epidemics; but they can be overcome building on community norms, values and social capital.”
“Mistrust, coupled with violence and insecurity, challenge our response; so we welcome the growing concerted efforts to actively listen to communities and accompany them to be part of the solution,” said Mr Sy.
Ebola operations in North Kivu have been hampered by violence against responders and treatment facilities. However, despite these challenges, 1,300 Red Cross volunteers, all from Ebola-affected communities, are continuing to conduct safe and dignified burials and are involved in community engagement and accountability work. They have conducted nearly 2,500 safe burials, almost five times more than the officially reported number of Ebola deaths. They further reached close to 905,000 people with locally adapted information and collected their feedback to continuously improve on our response.
The Ebola outbreak which began in August 2018, has hit communities in 20 health zones in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. It has not spread to other urban areas or across the border into neighbouring countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan; but the risk remains very high.
“Ebola does not respect borders. We are treating this as a regional threat and calling for urgent scale up of preparedness efforts in North Kivu and Ituri provinces and in neighbouring countries,” said Mr Sy.
The DRC Red Cross is set to strengthen its Ebola operation with the support of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners.
Mr Sy travelled to Kinshasa, Goma and Bunia alongside Henrietta Fore, Executive Director for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Mark Lowcock, Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). They met with the President of DRC and Head of State, Felix Tshisekedi, other Government representatives, Red Cross staff and volunteers and humanitarian partners involved in the Ebola response