1,940 Red Cross volunteers to fight Ebola


February 17, 2015 By Samuel Ben Turay

Some 1,940 volunteers are helping the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society (SLRCS) fight against the Ebola virus, according to SLRCS Ebola Coordinator, Henry Nyukeh.

He said 980 volunteers are contact tracers, 420 support social mobilization, while 540 are engaged in safety and dignified burials across the country.

Nyukeh added that the SLRCS has deployed more than 2,200 staff and volunteers across the country, and that the “Red Cross has spent billions of Leones to the fight against Ebola”.

He said SLRCS began recruiting volunteers as earlier as when they the first Ebola case was confirmed in Guinea, to sensitize people living in districts on the border with Guinea – Kailahun, Koinadugu, Kambia and Kono.

He disclosed the Red Cross has also lost just one of its staff during the Ebola outbreak, a nurse who used to work at the ICRC Ebola treatment centre in Kenema. He passed away on January 13, 2015, Nyukeh said, adding that an investigation to determine how the staff member became infected was underway.

“Our collective hearts as co-workers are heavy with sympathy for the loss of our colleague who was an outstanding life-saver. We can never afford to lose a single member of our team, especially those at the forefront of the fight against the Ebola virus disease. All of our colleagues at the heart of the Emergency Response Operations are deeply loved and are the nucleus of what we are,” he said.

The ICRC treatment centre has 144 national staff and 19 international staff. Since it opened in September, they have cared for more than 500 patients. “This is the first death of a Red Cross volunteer or staff member since response operations were launched in April 2014,” said Nyukeh.

“There is no such thing as zero risk when fighting an infectious disease such as Ebola. The Red Cross follows very strict protocols for staff and volunteers, and takes their health and safety extremely seriously. Volunteers and staff are deployed only after they have been fully trained and have the proper personal protective equipment, which includes protective suits, gloves, masks and goggles,” he added.

Nyukeh said the death of a Red Cross staff member underscores how those who respond to the Ebola outbreak are on the frontline of the health crisis – risking their health and in some cases their lives to assist those who are affected by the disease.

With close to 8,000 confirmed cases of Ebola and nearly 3,000 deaths from the virus, Sierra Leone is the country worst affected by the outbreak which has been ravaging West Africa for nearly one year.

He said the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies.

“Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions,” he concluded.