IFRC says volunteers played crucial role to end of Ebola outbreak in West Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the end of Ebola virus transmission in Liberia Thursday. The other two countries, Sierra Leone and Guinea, affected by the virus from 2014 were declared free of the disease toward the end of last year. Last week's announcement marked the first time that the three countries have reported zero cases of Ebola for at least 42 days.
More than 10,000 Red Cross volunteers contributed to getting the outbreak under control over the past two years -- whether it was risking their lives on the frontline or taking on the dangerous task of providing safe and dignified burials for people who died.
“[The end of the Ebola outbreak] is a testament to the dedication, courage and strength of communities across West Africa and to the many local and international actors that have supported them over the past 22 months,” IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy said. “Our volunteers were often the difference between life and death. Now that the outbreak is over, they can play a critical role in strengthening community resilience; in helping their communities prepare for future challenges."
While all known chains of Ebola transmission have been stopped in West Africa, those countries must now be prepared to deal with flare-ups and implement surveillance measures to ensure that new Ebola cases don't lead to any additional outbreaks.
"Our focus now must be on strengthening the capacity within these three countries to effectively identify and respond to future outbreaks,” IFRC Africa Regional Director Alasan Senghore said. “We also need to keep our commitment to communities. Ebola illustrated the weakness of health systems in this region. Let’s not wait for another reminder."