Posted by: africanpressorganization | 29 September 2014

United Nations High-level Meeting on Response to the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak 25 September 2014


United Nations High-level Meeting on Response to the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak 25 September 2014


NEW YORK, September 29, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Remarks of Mr. Elhadj As Sy

Secretary General

International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC)


    Ebola came to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and there it found us: the IFRC with 25,000 Red Cross volunteers on the ground, 3 National Societies, backed up by a Movement of 189 National Societies and 17 million volunteers across the world and the International Committee for the Red Cross.

    The Red Cross and Red Crescent has been there from the beginning. We mobilized and trained a pool of 5,000 volunteers and sent 137 international staff to do what we initially thought would be our routine work: build a field hospital, help with contact tracing and reach out to communities with information.

    But very quickly, reality caught up with us, and our humanity has been called upon to suddenly face the high number of our fellow human beings who have been dying, as the statistics are showing, and who deserve all our care, respect and dignity.

    We are becoming known for “dead body management”, but we do not “manage” dead bodies. We safely, respectfully and in a dignified manner accompany our deceased fellow human beings and help to prepare them in accordance with their cultures for their last resting places. We do not manage “dead bodies” because in the beliefs and cultures of that region in West Africa – and I myself am coming from that region – our deceased ancestors are not considered truly dead. There is a continuing chain between those who have left and those who stay behind: those who have died always remain with us. It is in this spirit that we carry out our work.

    We in the Red Cross have accompanied and safely buried 1,353 deceased human beings; in Guinea alone, we have carried out virtually all – 97% — of burials from Ebola deaths.

    Our success cannot be measured by the numbers of people whom we bury. We must deliver better prevention and better care faster, measuring our success in fewer deaths and fewer people to bury.

    Our one treatment centre in Sierra Leone, alongside MSF, is not enough! We in the Red Cross must do more, and we can do more with your support.

    We must engage in social healing and social reconciliation. People and communities do not understand that we convince them to leave their family members and friends in our hands, we take them as patients to isolation centres for care, yet we return — in over 80% of cases – deceased loved ones whom they cannot touch, they cannot wash, and they cannot keep with them for the usual time required for mourning. They cannot understand this, and our front line workers and volunteers are already paying a huge price for this normal human reaction and lack of comprehension among families and communities.

    This is the reality of Ebola, Mr Secretary-General, a reality which is so difficult to convey, until one is there to witness it first-hand, a reality which is difficult to comprehend until, unfortunately, a friend, a brother or a sister is directly affected.

    We in the Red Cross must do more, and we can do more; but we need your solidarity and support.

    When Ebola leaves the region – and I hope this will be soon – 25,000 Red Cross volunteers and 3 National Societies will remain and will continue to support the people and communities as they face the new challenges of the hour.

    The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will always be there, on your side!

    Thank you very much.



International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)



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