Malawi: Cholera outbreak
Malawi is battling its worst cholera outbreak in two decades. Initially limited to the southern part of the country in early 2022, the outbreak has since spread country-wide, putting at risk more than 10 million people - including more than five million children. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the Malawi Red Cross in its life-saving cholera prevention and control efforts across 15 priority districts. Activities include providing safe water, setting up sanitation facilities, and promoting good hygiene practices in cholera hotspots.
| Press release
Africa CDC and IFRC ramp up COVID-19 response in Africa
Addis Ababa, 25 August 2021 - The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today launched a new collaboration to strengthen community resilience and response to public health emergencies at community level. The two institutions have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to ramp up pandemic response—including testing support to countries; community mobilization; advocacy and scaling up of contact tracing. In addition to COVID-19, the collaboration includes other areas of public health.
Africa CDC and IFRC will strengthen investments in locally-led action—for prevention and response purposes—while working with governments to ensure they intensify efforts to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, Africa CDC and IFRC will scale up advocacy against vaccine wastage.
This new initiative comes at a time Africa continues to face major vaccine shortages, amid a high level of community transmission in countries such as Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, said: “Africa is facing a double-edged challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with health response gaps, and also trying to ensure that the continent prepares efficiently for future pandemics, using lessons from current challenges”.
Africa CDC has been implementing various public health responses to control COVID-19. These include the engagement of community health workers in risk communication and community sensitization; surveillance activities for early case identification; contact tracing and in facilitating referrals for testing and continuum of care.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said: “What the IFRC and its network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies bring to this partnership with Africa CDC is our unparalleled access to local communities. Our community-based volunteers have the access and trust that are needed to address vaccine hesitancy and sensitize communities about adherence to preventive measures”.
The Africa CDC has been working to support African Union Member States to build a wide network of 2 million community health workers (CHWs) in line with the July 2017 African Union Assembly Decision. The collaboration with the IFRC network, which includes 1.2 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers across the continent is expected to strengthen community level interventions and consolidate gains in tackling the spread of the virus, while increasing awareness about vaccine benefits.
National Red Cross Red and Crescent Societies across Africa remain on the frontline of the response to COVID-19. They are providing ambulance services; conducting contact tracing and point of entry screening. They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation and provide emotional comfort and psychological support to people in need.
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
COVID-19: Southeast Asia battles world’s highest deaths
Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 18 August 2021:Southeast Asia is battling the world’s highest COVID-19 death toll driven by the Delta variant and unequal global distribution of vaccines.
Hospitals remain overwhelmed by record surges across Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to Malaysia and Myanmar as fears mount of greater suffering and loss of life with COVID-19 spreading from cities to rural and regional areas.
In the last two weeks, Southeast Asia has recorded38,522 deaths from COVID-19, nearly twice as many as North America, according to theJohn Hopkins UniversityCOVID-19 data dashboard.
Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said:
“This COVID-19 surge driven by the Delta variant is claiming a tragic toll on families across Southeast Asia and it’s far from over. We fear that as the virus spreads from cities to regional and rural areas that many more lives will be lost among the unvaccinated.
“Vaccinations are at record rates in some countries, yet many Southeast Asian nations have low portions of the population fully vaccinated and are languishing far behind Western Europe and North America.”
The United Kingdom has fully vaccinated 60 per cent of its population, while Canada and Spain stand at around 64 per cent, according to Oxford University’sOur World in Data.
By contrast, Malaysia has fully vaccinated 34 per cent of its population against COVID-19, Indonesia and Philippines, close to 11 per cent and Vietnam less than 2 per cent.
Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and most Southeast Asia countries are all battling record COVID-19 infections or death tolls.
Seven of the top 10 countries where COVID-19 deaths have doubled the fastest are in Asia and the Pacific, with Vietnam, Fiji and Myanmar all in the top five, according toOur World in Data.
“In the short-term, we need much greater efforts by richer countries to urgently share their millions of excess vaccine doses with countries in Southeast Asia. We also need vaccine companies and governments to share technology and scale up production,”Mr Matheou said.
“These coming weeks are critical for scaling up treatment, testing and vaccinations, in every corner of all countries in Southeast Asia. We must aim for mass vaccination rates of 70-80 per cent if we want to win the race against the variants and overcome this global pandemic.”
Until vaccination levels reach a critical mass, in the short-term it is also crucial to reinforce health protection measures, such as wearing a mask, physical distance and meeting outdoors or in well ventilated spaces.
The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global emergency COVID-19 appeal, with around 60% of the appeal covered so far. The funds are crucial to support the lifesaving actions of the IFRC and member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world.
Photos of Red Cross and Red Crescent activities are available for download
| Press release
Mass COVID-19 vaccinations kick off in Bangladesh camps
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 10 August 2021:Vaccinations have begun for people in the camps for displaced people, amid a record COVID-19 surge in Bangladesh and a widening global vaccine divide.
The vaccination campaign begins on 10 August with priority for people aged 55 and over covering 48,000 camp residents. About 500 Bangladesh Red Crescent staff and volunteers are working under the Population Movement Operation (PMO) and the Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation (MRRO), in collaboration with UNHCR and health authorities, in the urgent rollout all over the 34 camps.
There are more than 900,000 people living in the densely populated camps. Many people face ongoing health issues, limited access to hygiene facilities and safe water. Existing health clinics were already stretched to the limit, even before the COVID-19 epidemic.
The Delta variant has driven surging infections across the country, with around 20,000 infections and 200 deaths recorded in the Cox’s Bazar district so far. A national positivity rate of around 30 per cent indicates the spread of COVID-19 is much higher, especially with cramped conditions and the risks faced by many people living in the camps.
M.A. Halim, Head of Operations, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said:
“This pandemic is inflicting a terrible toll on every aspect of people’s lives and has been compounded by recent floods and fires that have swept through the camps. Vaccinating is more important than ever to prevent illness and more loss of life in Cox’s Bazar.
“Thousands of trained Red Crescent volunteers are playing a key role supporting vaccinations in the camps and all over the country including at our health clinics and door to door to encourage people to get vaccinated.”
Hrusikesh Harichandan, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Cox’s Bazar sub-office, said:
“People in these camps are living in the shadow of the global vaccine divide. Widespread vaccinations are critical to contain this deadly virus. We need united efforts by national agencies and international organisations to help vaccinate all adults in the camps.
“Vaccinations are vital for families to live with dignity because staying home is so tough for people in these cramped camps and most still have limited access to water and sanitation facilities, escalating risks from COVID-19.”
Less than 3 per cent of the population in Bangladesh has been fully vaccinated and Bangladesh Red Crescent is working alongside health authorities to help vaccinate millions of people across the country over the next week.
As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 14 healthcare facilities, helping to meet health needs of people living in the Cox’s Bazar camps.
As part of the ongoing Population Movement Operation which began in 2017 and the MRRO which began in 1992, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, with the assistance of IFRC, other Red Cross Red Crescent partners and UNHCR, is providing both camp residents and host communities living on the periphery of the camps with healthcare, improved access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation services, shelter, livelihoods and other essential needs, along with reducing risks in disasters and protection support for women and those most at risk. In total, from the start of operations in 2017, Bangladesh Red Crescent has supported over 1 million people.
For more information, please contact:
In Cox’s Bazar:
Ibrahim Mollik, +880 16 74 330863, [email protected]
Sabrina Idris, +8801 763777999, [email protected]
In Asia Pacific Office:
Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]
Ellie van Baaren, +64 21 774 831, [email protected]
Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]
| Press release
As COVID-19 cases surge in Africa, Red Cross warns that insufficient funding is impeding the response
Nairobi/Geneva, 2 July 2021 – Halting an increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in Africa will require additional funding. This was announced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), amid a worrying surge of cases in Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa.
National Red Cross teams in these seven countries are stepping up surveillance, testing, healthcare and hygiene activities. They have also scaled up their COVID-19 awareness campaigns in public places such as markets and border points.
However, efforts like these ones, aimed at containing the spread of the virus, have been strained by insufficient funding. With a third wave looming large, there are increasing concerns that the impact will be more devastating, especially if the shortage of funds persists.
MohammedMukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said:
“Since the outset of this pandemic, not enough attention has been paid to the evolution of this virus on the African continent. Lower levels of transmission data have created the perception that this region has not been so affected by the pandemic. The upward trend in the number of infections that we are now seeing, is partly as a result of insufficient funding to address several gaps in the response. These include weak surveillance mechanisms; weak testing capacity; insufficient protective gear and medical equipment including hospital beds, oxygen and ambulance services. If these gaps are not addressed, cases will continue tosoar,followed bya peak in fatality rates, which is already being observed.”
IFRC Africa has so far only received about half of the funds it requires to support 48 countries in their response to COVID-19. Crucially, these funds are almost depleted.
Red Cross Red Crescent teams across Africa have been on the frontline of the response to COVID-19 since the outset. They are providing ambulance services, conducting contact tracing, promoting, and ensuring adherence to public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus and supporting in Infection Prevention and Control measures at treatment and isolation facilities and point of entry screening. They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation by providing educational materials, running radio campaigns and informational hotlines for the community and providing psychosocial support to people in need. To address the secondary impacts of COVID-19, Red Cross Red Crescent teams have been providing cash to vulnerable families. Many of these vital prevention programmes are at risk, if more funding is not urgently secured.
Mukhier said: “Without adequate funding, we are unable to respond to the needs of the communities we serve or address the gaps and challenges of this response. The gains that have been made over the last year are at serious risk of being lost, if funding is not made available to help us continue to reach the most vulnerable and affected communities in Africa.”
The average number of new daily infections reported in Namibia and Zambia has reached a new high with 1,600 and 2,719 daily cases, respectively. This is by far the highest rate of infection (over 100 per cent increase) observed in these countries. Mozambique is recording 400 daily cases, a 10-fold increase in comparison with previous months, Uganda is now detecting over 900 daily infections, and South Africa close to 18,000 daily cases.
In addition to lack of funding, there is the challenge of availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines: just over 1 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated. Most of the countries experiencing increasing trends have reported less than 5 per cent of their population receiving at least one vaccine dose.
Furthermore, the response to COVID-19 in Africa is complicated by the existence of other parallel and mutually exacerbating emergency situations.
Rui Alberto Oliveira, IFRC’s Operations Manager for Africa said:
“Responding to COVID-19 in countries facing multiple crises, such as DR Congo, Sahel, Lake Chad, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Sudan or Somalia, is extremely challenging, meaning the disease may continue to circulate unchecked.
“We cannot wait for the situation to deteriorate further before taking action. We must ensure that enough resources are made available, now, to halt the progress of the imminent, and potentially catastrophic, third wave of COVID-19 in Africa.”
| Press release
New Red Cross Red Crescent analysis shows deep inequalities in COVID-19 response across Middle East and North Africa
Beirut, 8 April 2021 (IFRC) – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is seeking “urgent and sizeable investment” to ensure the region’s pandemic response leaves no one behind.
While no one has been spared from the effects of COVID-19, the consequences of this pandemic have not been equally felt. This crisis has been defined by profound and persistent inequities both in terms of who is most at risk, and how the world has responded.
New analysis released today by the IFRC highlights significant inequalities in COVID-19 vaccination rates across the MENA region. According to this analysis:
Less than 5 per cent of vaccine doses administered in MENA Region have been administered in the eight countries facing severe or very severe humanitarian crises.
Only a third (37 per cent) of doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in MENA Region have been reported administered in countries experiencing any type of humanitarian crisis, whether conflict, complex emergencies, displacement, or others.
Among MENA countries that have administered any vaccine doses, the country reporting the most doses per capita, UAE, reports having administered 510 times more doses per capita than Algeria.
Hossam Khalil Elsharkawi, Regional Director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), said:
“The Middle East and North Africa hosts some of the world’s most protracted humanitarian crises. This analysis shows that people in these settings are more likely than the general population to be infected, are more likely to die once infected, and are least likely to be appropriately supported through the response, including through vaccination campaigns.
“While there is clearly a growing recognition of the importance of equitable vaccine access, this is not yet translating into investment in all the systems that are needed to turn this ambition into a reality. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement plan focuses on reaching the last mile and ensuring that no one is left behind. To continue to play this role, we need urgent and sizeable investment.”
Many countries in MENA are now rolling out COVID-19 vaccination as a pathway to end the acute phase of the pandemic. Fifteen out of a total of 17 countries have now administered at least one dose, with more than 25 million doses having been administered mainly in Gulf countries. However, for middle- and low-income countries, the vaccine procurement and vaccination roll-out rely fully on international cooperation and support that will take some time to cover (or reach) all priority populations and the last mile populations (migrants, refugees, IDPs).
The analysis also finds deep inequalities in broader COVID-19 health measures in the region:
The least developed countries in MENA (as measured by the Human Development Index - HDI) have carried out the fewest tests per capita. Among MENA countries reporting testing data, countries with a "very high" HDI reported having carried out eight times (863 per cent) more tests per capita than countries with a Medium Human Development Index. (There is no testing data available for the one MENA country with “Low” HDI).
This regional analysis comes following the launch of a new International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement plan that aims to tackle “deep and pervasive” inequities in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been at the frontline of the pandemic response. The revised International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement plan is designed to counter some of the more severe inequities by expanding care, treatment and support for people in all countries, including those affected by humanitarian crises such as conflict and disasters. The plan also includes a range of measures designed to support and extend COVID-19 immunization campaigns so that marginalized and isolated groups can access vaccines.
In all, the revised International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement appeal seeks 2.729 billion Swiss francs, with 274 million earmarked for the MENA region.
To read the revised Movement plan, visit the Covid-19 emergency page.
Notes to editors
The analysis of where vaccines have been administered; the relative reach of testing; and which countries carry out full, partial or no contact tracing is based on Oxford University’s ‘Our World in Data’ (latest available data used) and theINFORM Severity Index –an inter-agency tool that measures the severity of humanitarian crises and disasters globally (January 2021 data used).
For a full list of countries listed against crisis severity, visitINFORM Severity index. All datasets have some gaps.
While half (50 per cent) of MENA countries facing "no crisis" have contact tracing available, the same is true in only 20 per cent of MENA countries facing any type of crisis, whether displacement, conflict, political/economic, or other.
| Press release
COVID-19: Warning of “deadly consequences” of vaccine inequality, IFRC launches plan to help vaccinate 500 million people
Geneva, 4 February 2021 – The overwhelming majority of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered so far have been delivered in high-income countries, according to analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Nearly 70 per cent of vaccine doses administered so far have occurred in the world’s 50 wealthiest countries. In contrast, only 0.1 per cent of vaccine doses have been administered in the 50 poorest countries. The IFRC is warning that this inequality is alarming and could potentially backfire to deadly and devastating effect.
Mr Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, said:
“This is alarming because it is unfair, and because it could prolong or even worsen this terrible pandemic. Let me be clear: In the race to end this pandemic, we are all rowing the same boat. We cannot sacrifice those at highest risk in some countries so that those at lowest risk can be vaccinated in others.
“The equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines between and within countries is more than a moral imperative: It is the only way to solve the most pressing public health emergency of our time. Without equal distribution, even those who are vaccinated will not be safe.”
The IFRC is warning that, if large pockets of the globe remain unvaccinated, the COVID-19 virus will continue to circulate and mutate. This may lead to the emergence of variants that do not respond to vaccines, allowing the virus to infect people that may have already been vaccinated.
In a bid to support equitable vaccine distribution, the IFRC has announced today a new, 100 million Swiss franc plan that aims to support the immunization of 500 million people against COVID-19.
Under the plan, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will support national vaccination efforts in a range of areas and across the planning and implementation phases. This will include efforts to build trust in vaccines and to counteract misinformation about their efficacy – an intervention that is increasingly important as vaccine hesitancy rates climb around the world.
Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers will also seek out communities and individuals that are economically, socially or geographically isolated to ensure their involvement in vaccine efforts. And trained personnel will, in many countries be responsible for the physical delivery of vaccines to at-risk and vulnerable groups.
Already, 66 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are or will be involved in vaccine campaigns, with dozens more in discussions with their governments.
IFRC’s Chapagain said:
“Equality does not just happen. The history of the world tells us that. This is clearly also true for vaccine distribution. It needs to be engineered and planned for, right from the start.”
“Our plan is about making sure that those vaccines make it out of capitals and into the arms of vulnerable, at-risk and isolated individuals and communities.”
| Press release
COVID-19: Red Cross Red Crescent steps up European response, urges Governments to strengthen testing, tracing and isolation measures
Budapest/Geneva, 11 November 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging Governments to strengthen their “test-trace-quarantine” systems to help prevent future surges of COVID-19.
This call comes as multiple European countries put in place new restrictions to stop community transmission and to avoid the collapse of health systems.
Francesco Rocca, IFRC President, said:
“The recent restrictions across Europe signal that more must be done, and we see ourselves as a critical piece of that puzzle. We understand that these measures are difficult for many people, but they are needed to both flatten the curve and provide an opportunity to fix what hasn’t been working.
“In many countries, we have been supporting local authorities in testing, contact tracing and isolation measures. This system can be effective only when it can be carried out fully and in a coordinated way. We are scaling up these critical activities across more countries. No one wants this second wave to be followed by a third or a fourth.”
Across Europe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are supporting embattled health systems by conducting COVID-19 testing, transporting patients and providing psychosocial support. They are also offering a range of services designed to ensure that highly vulnerable people can complete everyday tasks, including grocery shopping and picking up medicines, while still fully complying with restrictions.
However, with the situation worsening in many countries, the Red Cross and Red Crescent stands ready to do more, said IFRC President Rocca:
“Our collective effort to prevent transmission will pay dividends going forward. We offer our help to ensure the worst can be behind us and lockdowns won’t be necessary in the future. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are already supporting their own local authorities to flatten the curve, stop the spread of the virus and save lives – and we stand ready to do more.”
In France, Red Cross volunteers are supporting walk-in COVID testing units at railway stations across Paris. In Monaco, Red Cross volunteers are helping rapidly escalate the country’s testing regime. In the Netherlands, Red Cross volunteers are on hand to assist scaled-up testing and crowd control at numerous testing sites. And in Georgia, the local Red Cross is training medical students in testing for COVID-19 to supplement its ramped-up response to the pandemic, an effort that now involves tens of thousands of volunteers.
Red Cross teams in Slovakia are helping authorities test every person in the country. In the Czech Republic, Red Cross volunteers are training thousands of people to support health care workers in hospitals and in Italy, the Red Cross has deployed several field hospitals and has strengthened its ambulance services to support local health systems, as well as providing psychosocial support.
“Our volunteers have been doing all they can to ensure peoples’ needs are met in a safe manner with as many COVID-19 precautions in place as possible – and we will need to do more. Above all, we want to thank all people who have been helping for months on end to serve their communities. It will be a long path, but together, I know we can succeed,” Francesco Rocca said.
More than 300,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Europe, and in the past week the region has registered more than half of all new infections reported globally.
| Press release
Cox’s Bazar: Almost 1 in 5 people in treatment have lung disease as COVID-19 spreads
Kuala Lumpur, Cox’s Bazar, Geneva, 24 August 2020: New data reveals that nearly one in five (17.9%) people being treated for medical conditions in displacement camps in Cox’s Bazar are already experiencing some form of lung disease as COVID-19 spreads in one of the most densely populated places on earth.
Three years on from a mass exodus triggered by violence on 25 August 2017, close to 1 million people displaced from Rakhine, Myanmar, also face many other chronic health conditions, including malnutrition and diarrhea, in overcrowded camps.
Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Operation of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in the Population Movement Operation in Cox’s Bazar, said: “My greatest fear is that high and unacceptable rates of acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and malnutrition, all make families more at risk of COVID-19.”
To date, there have only been 82 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths reported among the population of displaced people living in the camps. But concerns remain high, and these figures may not tell the whole story.
“The true extent of the COVID-19 outbreak is unclear due to some challenges with the testing capacity and participation by people in the services and health facilities available in the camps. Red Crescent volunteers are going door to door to provide people with lifesaving information and protective equipment to stay safe from the disease,” Mr Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman said.
Despite the serious health concerns, there have been hard fought gains in the past three years. as chronic health conditions including unexplained fever, diarrhoea and other infectious diseases have reduced, according to World Health Organization figures, despite some of the harshest living conditions in the world.
The figures show that intense public health measures and boosted access to limited medical care have succeeded in containing many serious diseases including diphtheria and measles.
The rate of unexplained fever reported in health clinics is nine times less than three years ago at the height of the mass movement of people fleeing violence.
Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) sub-office in Cox’s Bazar said: “Every day we see the remarkable strength and resilience of people who live in these camps. It doesn’t ring true that there have only been around 82 identified cases of COVID-19. We are very concerned that there may be many more people sick and infected.”
“We have two new COVID-19 isolation and treatment centers treating people along with 11 existing health facilities, all helping to close the gap in critical medical care,” Mr Kafley said.
Bangladesh Red Crescent teams, supported by the IFRC and other partners, are providing critical ongoing healthcare, relief supplies including safe water, longer-term support for more secure homes, along with protection and support for women and those most at risk. The relief operations are among the biggest ever in the region.
| Press release
Timor-Leste COVID-19 threats: Red Cross prioritizes border areas
Dili, Timor-Leste, August 17, 2020 – Timor-Leste Red Cross (CVTL) is urgently ramping up COVID-19 prevention in remote areas bordering Indonesia as the country’s containment success is threatened after its first new case has been reported in more than three months.
While Indonesia has recorded more than 125,000 cases, recently rising by over 2000 each day, Timor-Leste has achieved remarkable success, recording only 24 cases in the country in total and remaining COVID free since late April.
Late last week an Indonesian national tested positive to the virus after entering Timor-Leste via a land border with Indonesia. Timor-Leste’s government responded quickly, declaring a new state of emergency, tightening border restrictions, and reinstating stricter health protocols and bans on gatherings.
Red Cross has further intensified its prevention campaign in the border regions, regarded as the “red zone”, for the transmission of COVID-19. Since the outset of the pandemic, Timor-Leste Red Cross has prioritized this area and its 35 villages and 140 hamlets due to the porous border that allows people to move illegally between the neighboring countries.
Secretary General of Timor-Leste Red Cross, Anacleto Bento Ferreira, said:
“Timor-Leste Red Cross volunteers are reaching out to communities with important hygiene information and awareness raising activities to contain the virus. In disease outbreaks, engaging with and providing timely information to the most exposed communities is the best way to help people protect themselves.”
“Known and trusted in the area, our volunteers are best equipped to reach these remote villages and hamlets, going door to door or sharing information at strategic places like markets and village centres. Where possible, we amplify this through radio messages and social media.”
In addition to the educational campaign, Red Cross has worked with the Ministry of Health to establish quarantine tents in the capital Dili and the border stations between Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
With hygiene a priority, Red Cross has also established more than 80 hand washing facilities in key areas such as government offices, schools and churches and is now working urgently to establish another 80 in border areas.
Jan Gelfand, Head of IFRC’s Country Cluster Support Team for Indonesia and Timor-Leste, said:
“Timor-Leste is one of the few countries in the world that succeeded in containing COVID-19, responding quickly and effectively in dealing with the pandemic at the outset. With the detection of a new case it is important that every effort is made to contain the transmission of COVID-19.”
“Given that Timor-Leste is a relatively new country, COVID-19 has the potential to place a great deal of pressure on the country’s fragile health care system particularly in remote areas. With its reach down to the village level, CVTL has an important role to play in this effort.”
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
| Press release
Philippines: Red Cross urges greater vigilance as COVID-19 cases fill hospitals
Manila, 28 July 2020 - Red Cross is urging everyone in the Philippines to be even more vigilant as COVID-19 cases continue to jump by more than a thousand each day following the easing of quarantine restrictions.
More than 80,000 people in the country have tested positive to COVID-19, with a record number of 2,539 cases in a single-day on 8 July. There are more than 42,000 confirmed cases this month alone, more than double the cases from January to June 30. The country has the most number of active cases compared to its neighbouring countries in South East Asia.
An increasing number of hospitals are reporting full capacity and can no longer accommodate COVID-19 patients. The Department of Health reported on 14 July that the COVID-19 bed capacity in the country’s capital, Metro Manila, has reached a “danger zone” with 76 percent of COVID-19 wards occupied. A “warning zone” has been declared in four regions which have at least 30 percent of isolation beds occupied.
Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said:
“The biggest threat is complacency as we are far from being out of the woods. We need to act like we already have the virus and keep wearing face masks and practising proper handwashing and physical distancing. While we all carry out our responsibility to protect ourselves and others, we in the Philippine Red Cross will continue responding and focusing our resources on key areas where we can create the most impact to help contain the disease. Together, we will prevail.”
Red Cross is playing a central role, working alongside the government in tracing, testing, isolating and treating COVID-19 patients. Thousands of volunteers are helping with surveillance and contact tracing. Seven molecular laboratories across the country have tested more than 300,000 people so far, comprising 26 percent of the national test output. Seventy-one medical tents have been set up to support public and private hospitals. Red Cross volunteers are also distributing emergency food packages, providing psychosocial support, promoting healthy behaviour and improved hygiene, reaching more than 700,000 people.
IFRC’s Acting Head of Philippine Country Office, Patrick Elliott said:
“These times are very challenging for all of us, but some are more at risk and we have growing concerns for the elderly, people with disabilities and families with members who have contracted the disease. We need greater efforts to overcome mounting stigma and fear in the community. Volunteers are providing for basic needs to reduce the worsening social and economic impacts of this tragic pandemic.”
Of the 16,000 families being assisted with cash grants, 4,500 families have members who have contracted the disease. They are also provided with food support while in quarantine.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is supporting National Societies in most at-risk countries through a global appeal. Philippines is second after Indonesia with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in South East Asia.
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
| Press release
Red Cross urges Indonesians to change behavior to slow COVID-19
Jakarta/Kuala Lumpur, 24 July 2020 – Indonesian Red Cross is calling on Indonesians to continue practising physical distancing and to exercise greater caution to prevent COVID-19 infections from spiralling out of control as the country adapts to a `new normal’.
COVID-19 cases continue to climb rapidly in Indonesia, with more than 1000 new cases being diagnosed every day over the past three weeks, with a record high of over 2,600 people infected by coronavirus. The country is the hardest hit in South East Asia, with more than 91,751 cases and at least 4,459 deaths, according to the John Hopkins University COVID-19 database.
In response to this surge in cases, Red Cross is actively sending stronger public messaging through awareness campaigns, to contain the spread of the virus, especially as restrictions start to ease in much of the country. In what has been called the “new normal”, offices, schools, places of worship, malls, markets, and tourist attractions are reopening in some regions as four months of large-scale social restrictions are lifted.
Indonesian Red Cross Secretary General Sudirman Said: “Transmissions will continue to rise unless communities adapt their daily lives by applying strict health protocols during this new normal phase.”
“We are intensifying our efforts to educate the public about the importance of changing their behaviour for good by physical distancing, wearing masks and practising good hygiene. We are mobilizing our thousands of brave volunteers to work directly and safely with communities while reaching out on social media and across radio airwaves and loudspeakers.
“These times are tough, but people are staying strong. The challenge is to effectively reach all our diverse communities living on 6,000 inhabited islands. This calls for a unified, unprecedented, large scale effort to reach all parts of society, in every corner of our country.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesian Red Cross is mobilising around 7,000 volunteers to provide important health services to 1.5 million people. Volunteers have also carried out health promotion activities for more than five million people focusing on eight priority provinces which have the highest COVID-19 cases in the country, which is the fourth most populous in the world.
This effort has been backed by the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), which launched a global appeal to provide support to the world’s most at risk countries, including Indonesia.
Jan Gelfand,Head ofIndonesia Country Office,InternationalFederation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society said: “This global pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge, requiring global cooperation but a local response. As cases rise in Indonesia, Red Cross is doubling its efforts, using all available resources to slow the spread of this virus. Red Cross recognises that individuals and communities have a critical role to play, by changing their behaviour, they can help to control COVID in this new normal.”
| Press release
Eight hundred thousand masks to help protect migrant workers from COVID-19
Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok, 23 June 2020:Nearly a million masks are being provided to migrant workers, village health volunteers and other frontline workers as part of a new initiative to protect people at risk from COVID-19 in Thailand.
An estimated 80 million migrant workers in Asia are particularly vulnerable amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with many missing out on support because they are undocumented and therefore largely invisible to authorities and humanitarian organisations.
Thailand is a significant regional migration hub in South-East Asia and currently hosts an estimated four million migrant workers. Most of these migrant workers come from neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Migrants work in a range of sectors including construction, fisheries, agriculture, hospitality, and domestic work.
Thai Red Cross Society will be supporting 400,000 people by providing protective equipment to migrant workers, including reusable cloth face masks, alcohol gel and information materials. Migrant workers under quarantine will also receive relief kits including food and personal hygiene items.
Mr. Pichit Siriwan, M.D., Deputy Director of the Relief and Community Health Bureau, Thai Red Cross Society, as Chairman of the project said:“This project isencouraging people to wear masks to protect themselves from the COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand. Cloth face masks can prevent wearers from transmitting or being in contact with COVID-19. Theobjectives are to protect and help migrants and their families in accordance with humanitarian principles and to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in Thailand."
Mr Christopher Rassi, Head of Delegation, Bangkok, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “Migrants, especially those who are undocumented, face daily challenges which are further exacerbated by the health and socio-economic impacts of this pandemic. Red Cross is supporting migrant workers, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and it’s vital that everyone can be safe from COVID-19.”
Through this initiative the Thai Red Cross Society is working with IFRC, the Internatioanl Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF, and the Migrant Working Group, Thailand. This major collaboration is being launched in Samut Sakhon province, where many migrants live and work south west of Bangkok.
IFRC is supporting Thai Red Cross to assist migrant workers and other COVID-19 initiatives through its Global Emergency Appeal.
| Press release
Isolation field hospitals open to prevent COVID crisis in Bangladesh camps
Kuala Lumpur/Cox’s Bazar, 22 June 2020:Two new isolation field hospitals are opening to treat an alarming and growing number of COVID-19 patients in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh camps and adjacent host communities.
The isolation and treatment centres help address a growing gap in critical medical care needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mass deaths in the world’s biggest camps for displaced people from Rakhine state of Myanmar.
More than 1500 cases of COVID-19 in the Cox’s Bazar region, including 37 confirmed cases and three deaths in the crowded camps, are putting immense pressure on existing government hospitals and health facilities established by international relief agencies.
Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Population Movement Operation, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said that the true extent of the outbreak may not be fully apparent yet due to limited testing and health facilities available in the camp.
“Extremely overcrowded living conditions, the existence of chronic diseases, basic sanitation and hygiene facilities and limited access to healthcare make the displaced communities in Cox’s Bazar extremely vulnerable to the virus,”he said
There are an estimated 1.24 million people in the Cox’s Bazar area, including more than 900,000 people living in the camps, with the existing healthcare system stretched to the limit even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 12 healthcare facilities in the camp and meeting the health needs remains a huge challenge for all aid organisations in Cox’s Bazar.
“The two new field hospitals are a step to closing the gap in crucial medical care, but it is important to remember that COVID-19 is not the only health emergency for the people living in these camps,”saidSanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of IFRC’s sub-office in Cox’s Bazar.
“Whilst the virus is emerging as a massive threat to people living in the camp, there remain high levels of deadly diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and clusters of measles, all placing ongoing demands on the healthcare system in and around the camps.
“These communities now need even more support than ever, which can only be provided through a unified effort between national agencies, humanitarian organisations and the international community.”
Available for interviews:
Dr Mohsin Ahmed, medical doctor heading field hospitals in the camps.
Azmat Ulla, Head of Bangladesh Country Office, IFRC
| Press release
DR Congo: Red Cross calls for “swift and extensive” response to the new Ebola outbreak
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.”
Dengue fever another blow for the Pacific Islands
As the Pacific Islands battle to keep Covid-19 out, and continues to reel from the aftermath of the Tropical Cyclone Harold, they are fighting another battle; Dengue Fever.
More than 4,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported in both Fiji and the Marshall Islands, but several more islands are at risk.
There are now 700 confirmed cases of dengue fever in areas of Fiji that were most affected by Tropical Cyclone Harold. The majority of new cases are children under the age of 18.
As of 12 May, the Marshall Islands has reported more than 3,388 cases of dengue-like illness, of which more than 1,576 have been laboratory confirmed.
Dr. Dewindra Widiamurti, Red Cross Pacific Health Manager, says: “In Fiji, the destruction by the cyclone resulted in water sources being contaminated, and increased challenges with wastewater removal. People who lost their homes are now living in evacuation centres, where social distancing is difficult, if not impossible, potentially making it easier for mosquitos to spread the virus.”
This situation is coupled with a shortage of safe water, which increases the health risks to displaced people, not only from dengue fever but also from other waterborne and mosquito-spread diseases. If COVID-19 entered these evacuation centres, it could also create an increased risk of spread, as lack of hygiene also facilitates the transmission of COVID-19.
Following the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Fiji, the Government responded immediately by isolating the person and carrying out thorough contact tracing, as well as tightening its national and international travel. Although Fiji has not reported a new COVID-19 case since 20 April 2020, the Government is advising the community to remain vigilant and international travel restriction continues. Tropical Cyclone Harold hit the country in early April, at the same time as the COVID-19 response was rolling out. The dengue outbreak has further complicated the health situation.
TheMarshall Islands dengue feveroutbreak began in July 2019 and is considered the worst outbreak in the country’s history.
Dr Widiamurti says: “We hope the outbreak is declining, as dengue fever is unpleasant and possibly life threatening. Two people have died of the fever since the outbreak started. We are concerned that COVID-19 might become a double burden to the affected communities. Hygiene advice, shared by the Red Cross volunteers is vital in the effort to prevent the spread of these diseases and limit mosquito breeding sites and the risk of being bitten.”
Since the outbreak was first reported, the Marshall Islands Red Cross Society has been actively visiting villages and communities to build awareness and promote measures to reduce the risk of mosquito bite.
The Fiji Red Cross have now also mobilised trained volunteers to conduct health education and hygiene promotion. They visit villages throughout the high-risk areas to build awareness and knowledge, simultaneously sharing COVID-19 hygiene precaution measures.
Since the outbreak was first reported, The Marshall Islands Red Cross has been actively visiting villages and communities to build awareness and promote measures to reduce the risk of mosquito bite.
The Fiji Red Cross have now also mobilized trained volunteers to conduct health education and hygiene promotion. They visit villages throughout the high-risk areas to build awareness and knowledge, simultaneously sharing COVID-19 hygiene precaution measures.
Ecuadorian Red Cross supports migrants during COVID-19 emergency
"With what we receive, we don't have enough to eat, or to rent, for anything. We have to sleep in the street and expose ourselves to the virus," says José Gregorio, one of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants living in Ecuador.
José is part of a population that works in the informal market, selling candy on the streets of Quito. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were 330,000 Venezuelans in this country by the end of 2019.
The health emergency caused by COVID-19 has complicated the living conditions of migrant populations. One of the main effects is the reduction of their livelihoods. Many migrants obtained their income from businesses or jobs that have been forced to close temporarily because of the emergency. Others work in the informal sector and find it very difficult to pay for their rent, food, health, and access to basic services.
The Ecuadorian Red Cross has provided humanitarian assistance with the delivery of hygiene kits and food. In the province of Pichincha, the National Society has delivered 4,630 food kits, while in Guayas, 500 were delivered. In addition, 1,000 hygiene kits were distributed between Guayas, Pichincha and five other provinces. This aid was aimed at people in vulnerable situations, including migrants.
"All our actions are coordinated with the state so as not to duplicate efforts and help in the most efficient way. In the case of the Province of Pichincha, we work with the Metropolitan Emergency Operations Centre. Similarly, we have articulated cooperation actions with the private sector, which has been key to mobilizing resources during the emergency," says Roberto Bonilla, technician of the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
One of the serious problems faced by migrants is psychological distress. The distance from their families, the anxiety generated during quarantine, as well as the stigma and discrimination they often suffer, are situations that can create depression. The Ecuadorian Red Cross has been using teleassistance to provide psychosocial support. This is a service that is open to the entire community, including the migrant population and involves mental health volunteers who provide support from different parts of the country.
According to Roger Zambrano, National Coordinator of Risk Management of the Ecuadorian Red Cross, the institution is currently carrying out a process of preparation for its volunteers with a view to extending its actions on the ground, in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"The safety of our volunteers and staff comes first," he says. "We are developing biosecurity protocols and procedures, as well as face-to-face and virtual training. We are also arranging for protective equipment to be sent to our volunteers. The idea is to expand our activities in the country, guaranteeing the well-being of our staff".
| Press release
Red Cross granted exemption from UN sanctions to provide humanitarian aid in DPRK
Pyongyang/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 24 February 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Socieities (IFRC) has been granted an exemption to United Nations sanctions, imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 (2006) and subsequent resolutions, allowing for the provision of life-saving support to protect people from the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
The potential for an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea poses a threat to millions of people who are already in need of humanitarian assistance.
Xavier Castellanos, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Regional Director said: “We know that there is urgent need of personal protective gear and testing kits, items vital to prepare for a possible outbreak. This exemption is a life-saving intervention and an important measure to ensure that sanctions do not bear a negative impact on the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
On 11 February, IFRC launched a 32 million Swiss francglobal emergency appealto support National Societies with community-based health activities, access to basic services, andthe management of misinformation and stigma.
“We are grateful for the speed and urgent attention given by the United Nations Sanctions Committee to our request and that, as a result of this exemption, the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be granted humanitarian assistance,” Castellanos added.
IFRC has had a permanent presence in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since 1995, supporting the humanitarian work of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is one of the only organizations with access to communities across the whole country. The Red Cross has sent volunteers to support the Ministry of Public Health, working closely with healthcare providers to support COVID-19 screening and to promote effective hygiene practices. They are coordinating with local health staff and government departments to engage with communities and visit remote households that are hard to reach.
| Press release
Millions of children at risk as death toll rises in Philippines measles outbreak
Manila / Kuala Lumpur / Geneva, 14 March 2019 – An estimated 3.7 million children under five in the Philippines are at risk during a measles outbreak that has already claimed 286 lives, most of them children or babies, the Red Cross is warning.
Deaths from measles are already 42 per cent higher this year than for all of 2018, when 202 people died. It is estimated that 3.7 million children under five have never been vaccinated and have no protection to the highly contagious virus, which is still spreading. Health experts estimate that every person sick with the measles could infect up to 18 others.
Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said:
“We are in the grip of a measles outbreak that, tragically, is hitting the very young hardest. The Red Cross has been crucial in restoring people’s confidence in vaccines, which makes it easier now to convince parents to get their children vaccinated. But we are aiming for a 100 per cent immunisation rate.”
Of 286 deaths so far this year, 110 have been of babies under nine months old. The median age of those who’ve died is just two years old.
Since 10 February, the Philippine Red Cross, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has been working with the Department of Health to support patients and their families. The Red Cross has set up tents with cots and bedding to reduce over-crowding and give care to measles patients. It has set up welfare desks, portable water and sanitation facilities, and hygiene equipment inside hospitals. The Red Cross has also called for volunteer doctors and nurses to help during a mass vaccination campaign. The aim is to ensure vaccination of all children aged six months to five years.
Head of the IFRC Philippines Country Chris Staines said:
“With experts warning that the outbreak could last for months, potentially not stabilising until May, many more lives are at risk. This is a preventable tragedy. We have no time to lose and no time to be complacent. We need to support Philippines Red Cross staff and volunteers today in their life-saving actions.”
The Philippine Red Cross has a strong capacity to complement the government’s response to the outbreak, with over 2 million volunteers. Red Cross staff and volunteers are already playing a key role informing, educating and warning communities about the early signs and symptoms of measles, and what action to take.
The Red Cross has already given vaccinations to more than 13,500 children. But to be able to support the Department of Health to protect all children aged six months to five years in the highest risk areas as soon as possible, IFRC is appealing to donors and partners to contribute 2 million Swiss francs (1.9 million US dollars / 105 million Philippine pesos).
Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by a virus. It affects mostly children but people of any age who have not been vaccinated against measles can be infected.
Measles spreads very easily. The virus lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It canspreadto others through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed.
People usually get sick about 10 to 12 days after getting infected with the virus. The symptoms include red eyes, runny nose, fever (as high as 1040F/ 400C) and skin rashes for more than three to seven days. Infected people are most contagious from about four days before their rash starts until four days afterwards. Complications include diarrhea, middle ear infection, pneumonia, swelling of the brain, malnutrition and blindness. Complications may lead to death.
There is no specific treatment for the virus, although severe complications can be avoided.
Measles can be effectively prevented by vaccination. According to the WHO, between 2000 and 2017, measles vaccination resulted in an 80 per cent drop in deaths worldwide. In 2017, about 85 per cent of the world's children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72 per cent in 2000.
Early detection, early action: preventing DRC’s Ebola outbreak from spreading into nearby Uganda
Communities living along the porous borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remain at high risk of the spread of Ebola. Thousands cross each day to sell and buy goods, tend to their farm and visit family and friends. With the epicentre of DRC’s largest Ebola outbreak only 100 kilometers away from the Ugandan border, it is crucial to contain and stop the virus from spreading.
Uganda Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been scaling up its response to help prepare communities and to prevent the spread of the virus. Volunteers are in high-risk areas, sensitizing communities about Ebola – providing information about the virus, what they can do to protect themselves, and screening the thousands of individuals who cross the border each day. Community engagement through music, drama, and mobile cinemas have also been employed to reach thousands of people.
“We would like to see communities that can easily detect diseases, potential epidemics and communities that can respond in case epidemics occur,” said Dr. Kasumba Joseph, Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program Officer with the Uganda Red Cross.
“Most importantly we want communities that can actually prevent these epidemics. We are doing this through our volunteers.”
Karungi Shamillahis a Uganda Red Cross volunteer trained to educate families about Ebola and other health issues in her community.Photo: IFRC/Corrie Butler
Halting the virus before its spread through a real-time mobile system
Through Uganda Red Cross’ extensive network of community-based volunteers, a powerful surveillance system has been set up, in coordination with other actors and the Ministry of Health. This system helps stop the virus’ spread, detecting outbreaks before they happen.
Uganda Red Cross has trained community-based volunteers to recognize the signs of potential Ebola illness and to alert the authorities for follow up and care of people with such signs. With the help of the ‘Kobo Collect’ Mobile App, these cases are logged and are instantly shared with local health authorities for rapid action. If a case is detected the person can receive prompt treatment and the disease can be contained. This enables the reporting of any epidemic alerts in real time with low costs and resources.
“These communities being near the border are quite vulnerable. We have a lot of movement across the border, especially on market days, the risk of an Ebola outbreak is imminent,” says Kasumba, based in Bundibugyo.
“We have now trained 50 community-based volunteers who are using this technology as a surveillance tool to help prevent the threat of Ebola in Uganda.”
Only weeks after the training, volunteers have already started working in their communities where they hold sessions with community members and sensitize them about Ebola. Others, like Mugenyi Adam, have already sent out alerts to their supervisor.
“I have so far sent two alerts to my supervisor. I am proud that the community trusts me already and in case of any suspicions, I am the first one they call. This is what makes me proud – the response is so, so fast.”
He recalls one alert he submitted after conducting door to door community sensitization:
“A lady called me and told me her grand-daughter was sick, showing some of the symptoms of Ebola. I called my supervisor and informed him about it. I was amazed to see a response in just 25 minutes. They checked on the girl, took her to hospital and fortunately she tested negative for Ebola. I kept checking on the family to ensure that they were doing the right hygiene practices. I am so proud, I believe I saved her life.”
In Bundibugyo district, volunteers are conducting, what is called “passive” community-based surveillance. This means volunteers report alerts as they encounter them in the community while they conduct community health awareness activities. During large scale outbreaks, surveillance moves into an “active” phase where volunteers proactively reach out door-to-door ensuring alerts are quickly identified for a faster, more effective response.
Community-based surveillance, on its own, is not enough: coordination is key
Well before the community-based surveillance system was launched through the IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3), significant coordination was done with stakeholders, including government ministries, health care workers, sectors for animal health, agriculture and environment, development partners, civil society, and the communities themselves.
“We have been trained in this approach by the Red Cross and we have worked closely with them to tackle community epidemics in this region. Given that Ebola is the major threat at the moment, all efforts have been focused on prevention and preparedness because of our proximity to neighboring Congo where Ebola has already killed many people,” said Dr. Samson Ndyanabaisi, the District Veterinary Officer in Bundibugyo district.
“The future of this project is very bright and the government always welcomes such support and collaborations.”
Communities remain at the heart of preparedness
With epidemics and pandemics continuing to take place around the world, it is increasingly important to ensure communities are prepared to respond in order to stop outbreaks early. Ebola is only one of the many health risks that IFRC’s CP3 is helping combat. The vision is that Uganda will use this as a model and continue to expand it to other epidemic and pandemic risks that are faced in the community, such as cholera or measles.
“As the Red Cross, we’re very strong at mobilizing to support communities when something happens. We’re one of the first who are there to take action. But we can do better than this,” explains Abbey Byrne, Community Based Surveillance Delegate with the IFRC.
“We’re also there before the epidemic. We can halt the spread instead of reacting once these diseases have already reached epidemic proportions.”
There is no one who understands a community more than its own. When challenges arise, they are the ones best suited to come up with the solutions. During epidemics, these community members are the first to respond and can, ultimately, save lives.
More about the CP3 programme
Launched in 2017 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) scales up efforts towards global health security. The program strengthens the ability of communities, National Societies and other partners in 8 target countries to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats and play a significant role in preparing for future risks.