This International Volunteer Day (5 December), the Red Cross is calling for increased recognition of volunteers for the important and often life-saving work they carry out in their communities, and for them to receive stronger support and protection in the face of the growing risks they encounter.
On average globally, one Red Cross Red Crescent volunteer is either killed or seriously injured each week while carrying out their humanitarian work.
Since the conflict started in Syria almost four years ago, 47 Red Crescent volunteers have died while on duty, and many more have suffered physical and emotional injuries while providing neutral and impartial help to affected communities. In West Africa, where humanitarian organizations are tackling the largest Ebola outbreak in history, many of the volunteers involved in the response are facing growing stigma and rejection by their own communities for taking part in the fight against the virus.
“If I don’t do it, who will?” said Mariatu Kagbo, a Red Cross volunteer from Sierra Leone, when she was asked about her work as part of the safe and dignified burial team. Mariatu is one of the more than 10,000 Red Cross volunteers who have been actively helping to curb the outbreak of Ebola across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March.