29 October 2014
The new chief executive of the British Red Cross has urged the international community to increase its efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa.
Mike Adamson has been appointed chief executive after four years as managing director of operations at the Red Cross.
His rallying cry comes as the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launches an unprecedented Ebola Crisis Appeal.
The death toll from the deadly disease continues to rise in West Africa.
“In my first week as chief executive of the British Red Cross, I have one message to the UK public: Ebola can be contained, but it won’t happen unless the international community urgently scales up efforts and resources are focused in the right places,” said Adamson, who has been acting chief executive since April.
“There are thousands of local Red Cross volunteers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea doing heroic work to raise awareness about Ebola prevention.
“They’re also carrying out safe and dignified burials, which are hugely important to stop the spread of the disease.
“It is clearly essential that enough treatment centres are built to keep pace with new infections, but with no known cure, equal weight needs to be given to preventing Ebola from spreading further.
“If not, we can only hope to provide beds to match the rate at which the virus increases its number of victims – and it already has a head start.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ebola has claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 people across Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Mali.
The WHO estimates there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week in the worst affected countries.
Red Cross response
Red Cross staff and volunteers have been fighting the disease since the outbreak began in Guinea in March. Treating patients is hugely important, but prevention and containment are equally important.
The Red Cross response is focused on five key areas:
- Raising awareness of the disease in communities and how to prevent its spread: an average of 315,000 people are reached each month
- Finding people who may have come into contact with Ebola: on average, one person with Ebola infects two other people
- Treating patients: the Red Cross has a treatment centre in Kenema, Sierra Leone
- Safely burying Ebola’s victims: the Red Cross has carried out 3,595 safe and dignified burials to date
- Working with communities and survivors to reduce stigma around the disease
This is the first time in its history that the DEC has appealed in response to a disease outbreak.
The decision to launch the DEC Ebola Crisis Appeal demonstrates that the situation is no longer a medical emergency, but threatens to become a humanitarian catastrophe.
DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said: “In its 50-year history the DEC has launched appeals for humanitarian disasters caused by floods, famines, earthquake, typhoons and countless conflicts. We have never run an appeal in response to a disease outbreak – until today.
“While many chronic diseases cause untold suffering in poorer countries, the worst acute outbreaks of deadly diseases such as measles or cholera have usually occurred in the wake of another type of disaster.
“In West Africa today we are seeing a disease create not just a medical crisis but a humanitarian emergency.”
The British Red Cross is one of 13 charities brought together by the DEC in times of crisis.
Please donate to our Ebola Appeal.
Read more stories from West Africa and find out how the Red Cross is helping.