Deeply Concerned about the growing stigma that hinders efforts to comprehensively respond to the ongoing Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, the head of International and National Services at the Irish Red Cross, Mr John Roche, has joined the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mr Elhadj As Sy, in strongly urging all governments to not allow fear and misinformation to guide decisions that further isolate countries affected by Ebola and close borders to travellers from West Africa.
“We are at a critical time in the battle to bring the Ebola epidemic under control and deal with its devastating consequences. We need to stand together, scale up our support and ensure we don’t hinder the brave efforts of those on the frontline“, says Mr Roche “Ebola is one of the defining humanitarian crises of 2014, and it's not over yet, we will be judged on how we respond, let us not fail“
Since the outbreak began eight months ago, governments around the world have taken some drastic measures to prevent the virus from reaching their soils, including quarantining health care workers when it was not necessary, preventing international responders from returning to their countries of origin and forcing them to take their 21 day rest and observation period in a third country, and blocking people travelling from West Africa, or those with a West African passport, at frontiers. During a visit to his home country of Senegal where he attended the Francophonie Summit, Mr Sy called on African states affected by the outbreak to scale up screening activities at airports and border crossings to identify people possibly infected with the virus before they travel. Mr Sy then urged governments, including sister African countries, to invest resources into what will ultimately end this outbreak: simultaneous education of communities, isolation of Ebola patients, tracing and monitoring of those who have come into contact with an infected person, and the safe and dignified burials of those killed by the disease.
“The Ebola outbreak is very much an international concern, and governments are legitimately putting measures in place to protect their citizens. However, closing borders and limiting entry to people travelling from West Africa are not effective ways to contain the outbreak,” said Mr Elhadj As Sy. “Actions such as these only contribute to the stigmatization faced by the very brave people who are volunteering to respond to this outbreak.”
Travel restrictions are preventing many Red Cross Red Crescent staff from applying for positions based in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, making it challenging for the Red Cross to fully implement Ebola response activities. “This is a disease where prevention of transmission is entirely possible but needs collective efforts of all, governments, humanitarian agencies and frontline services working together. The fight will not end until there are no more cases, we have a long battle ahead. We cannot globally accept a situation where Ebola is seen as endemic” adds Mr Roche
You can donate to the Irish Red Cross emergency Ebola appeal quickly and safely online www.redcross.ie/donate