Red Cross mobilizes volunteers to respond to new Ebola cases and to support recovery efforts in West Africa

By International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Socie

With three new cases of Ebola virus disease recently confirmed in Guinea, and three probable and one suspect cases identified, the Red Cross Society of Guinea, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has mobilized teams of trained volunteers to aid in the response.

“The confirmation of new cases is a vivid reminder of the need to maintain a fast and efficient response capacity in all three West African countries which were affected by the Ebola outbreak,” said Norbert Allale, head of IFRC regional Ebola operations. “In Guinea, we have provided refresher training to some of our safe and dignified burial volunteers who are now on standby to respond should the number of confirmed cases increase.”

Forty beneficiary communications volunteers also received refresher training and have been deployed to the affected community and surrounding area to actively look for potential Ebola cases and to reinforce to residents how they can protect themselves from Ebola through proper hygiene.

The most recent case was confirmed in Macenta prefecture, following the confirmation of two new cases in a remote village in the prefecture of Nzérékoré last week. One of the confirmed cases, an 8-year-old girl, died from the disease. Three other people, all members of the same family, passed away in the weeks previous, all exhibiting symptoms consistent with Ebola. A further 961 contacts have been identified, with 120 of them considered high risk. These are the first cases since the Ebola outbreak was declared over in Guinea in late December 2015.

“The Red Cross was among the first to respond when the Ebola outbreak was confirmed in March 2014,” said Allale. “Long after other actors have moved on, our network of community-based volunteers will continue to respond when there are flare-up cases such as what we are seeing now. They will also work to support communities in the longer term as they embark on the road to recovery.”

Working through the National Red Cross Societies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the IFRC's recovery plans focus on implementing food security and livelihoods projects for families of Ebola survivors and other vulnerable groups; disaster preparedness and response measures; water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in schools; community-based health and first aid programmes, and psychosocial support for those most affected by Ebola. Across the three countries, the IFRC's Ebola outbreak recovery operations total close to 89 million Swiss francs, however, the three country-specific Emergency Appeals are currently 14 per cent, zero per cent, and one per cent funded, respectively.

“There are thousands of trained Red Cross volunteers who want to help their countries recover from the Ebola outbreak, and the Governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone have already promised to incorporate some of these volunteers into the rebuilding of community-based health care systems,” added Allale. “To do this, funding is needed. If we have to scale back our activities due to insufficient funding, this will prolong the time it will take for communities to fully recover and become more resilient. We strongly encourage donors and partners to return some of their focus to the vulnerable people of West Africa.”

The world's largest Ebola outbreak claimed more than 11,300 lives, the majority of them in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.