Tadateru Konoé, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recently encouraged the nations impacted by Ebola to acknowledge how Red Cross volunteers have improved local communities to prepare for future emergencies.
Konoé visited Sierra Leone and Guinea, which were both severely affected by the outbreak.
“More than 5,000 Red Cross volunteers in Guinea and Sierra Leone were trained during the Ebola response, many of them in infection, prevention and control,” Konoé said. “They gained valuable experience and skills which can be used in not only responding to various disease outbreaks, but in also acting as early warning systems. I strongly believe that these volunteers can, and should, play a key role in the rebuilding of community-based health systems.”
The Red Cross Society of Guinea as well as the Sierra Leone Red Cross have received support from the IFRC to train new volunteers for their communities. These volunteers must be able to handle surveillance and detect disease symptoms early on.
“Ebola taught us the importance of investing in community-based surveillance, and early warning and response mechanisms so diseases are identified before they become full blown epidemics,” Konoé said. “But we need to go further. When public health emergencies threaten and do cross international borders, such as Ebola, and now the Zika virus in the Americas, it is vital that we share these experiences and knowledge to ensure more effective and efficient responses.”