The Fight Against Ebola is Not Yet Over
Ebola High-level Conference: IFRC Secretary General Urges the International Community to Remain Vigilant
On 3 March 2015, high-level representatives of the countries affected by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and their international partners in the fight against Ebola held a conference in Brussels to take stock of the situation and identify ways forward in the effort to get down to zero cases.
Speaking at the conference, the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Elhadj As Sy, warned that the outbreak is not yet over, and urged the international community to sustain the current response to prevent the spread of the virus. "To be sure, the situation has improved, however, it isn’t yet where we want it to be, where we need it to be”, he said. "Complacency continues to be our enemy. We simply cannot afford to let our guard down”, he added, highlighting that there is still a lot of work to be done to reach zero Ebola cases and end the outbreak.
More than 23,500 people are known to have been infected across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and there have been over 9,700 deaths due to the Ebola disease.
Although confirmed new cases appear to have gone down, with 99 new cases reported during the last week of February, as opposed to 128 the previous week, the rains will soon come to the region and the all too fragile communities affected by Ebola will be even more vulnerable.
Furthermore, these figures are likely to be conservative as the stigma and fear attached to the disease imply that not all cases are reported. The uncertainty related to the sources of transmissions also remains a grave concern in certain areas.
"We must have the trust of communities to stop Ebola”, Mr. Sy said, highlighting that fear and suspicion are hampering response activities, and the opportunity for the people who are sick to receive the care they desperately need. "It hasn’t been easy for many of our volunteers”, he said. "Many of them continue to face acts of violence from communities blaming the Red Cross for the spread of the disease… We know that acts of violence are caused by fear”, he added.
Thousands of Red Cross volunteers have been engaging with communities to fight stigma and build trust, working with elders and community leaders to educate families about the importance of early treatment, and teach them about how the virus is spread. "We will not end the Ebola outbreak unless we are able to make everyone understand the importance of shifting unsafe practices. This is where the Red Cross Red Crescent movement is really making a difference”, Mr. Sy stressed.
Finally, Mr. Sy underlined the continued commitment of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement to responding to current needs and supporting those affected to re-build their lives. He highlighted the capacity enabled by more than 20,000 Red Cross volunteers that are present across the region. They were in the affected communities before the outbreak began, and will be there in the months and years to come.
For more information on Red Cross Red Crescent Ebola response activities, visit www.ifrc.org/ebola-crisis.