International Red Cross ready to respond to swine flu pandemic

June 12th, 2009 - 12:10 am ICT by admin  

GENEVA (BNO NEWS) — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ready to further support Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in their response to Influenza A (H1N1) following the World Health Organization’s 11 June announcement that the pandemic alert has moved into Phase 6.

The IFRC has continued to accelerate its disaster preparedness activities since the outbreak was first identified in late April.

“Even though the WHO decision does not necessarily reflect the level of severity of the pandemic, it is still a clear sign that the IFRC was right to warn the international community about the risk of complacency towards the H1N1 virus,” says Dominique Praplan, head of the IFRC’s health and care department in Geneva.

“Red Cross and Red Crescent societies all over the world must be mobilized and ready to respond to the crisis and implement their role as auxiliaries to their governments,” he adds.

Since the H1N1 virus first appeared in Mexico, the Red Cross Red Crescent has made a major contribution to public health measures, preparing for and reducing the impact of the potentially severe consequences of pandemic flu. Activities range from an advisory role to governments and UN agencies on community health and preparedness, direct support to communities, coordination of civil society partners, dissemination of public health messages and transporting patients to hospitals.

While the IFRC has aggressively pursued funding opportunities, it is far from raising the essential funds to meet the needs described in the 30 April preliminary appeal for 5 million Swiss francs (4.4 million US dollars/3.3 million euro). WHO’s Phase 6 announcement – confirming the first global pandemic in 40 years - should serve as an urgent call to mobilize support.

“We are definitely concerned about a lack of funding as it is essential to help Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in developing countries to prepare,” explains Robert Kaufman, head of the IFRC pandemic preparedness unit in Geneva.

“The pandemic is clearly spreading. While we still don’t know how the virus may evolve, we can predict that it will more severely impact the developing world, where vulnerable populations are likely to suffer a great deal even from this relatively moderate virus as a result of poor nutrition and complications with other diseases. More than ever, there is a need to scale up contingency plans and make sure basic prevention measures are disseminated across the world to limit the consequences of what is now officially a pandemic.”

The Red Cross Red Crescent response builds on several years of lessons learned from the SARS and avian flu crises. Since the beginning of the crisis, the IFRC has been closely cooperating with the WHO, as well as the global humanitarian pandemic preparedness (H2P) group the IFRC is currently leading.

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