The joint 100 million US dollars plan, announced by WHO and the West African nations affected by the Ebola virus disease, is a positive step forward in affording the crucial means to tackle the spread of the deadly disease.

However, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is gravely concerned over the slow and negligible response from international community and is calling for an immediate scale-up of efforts, according to a press release Saturday.

Public domain image/Mondo Magic
Public domain image/Mondo Magic

Only concerted action from the international community will enable the containment of this deadly virus. However, there is prevalent fear not only within the affected communities, but also within the international community to respond to the situation, which may hinder the rapid control the outbreak.

As the Ebola virus disease spreads out of control across some of the poorest countries in West Africa, the IFRC is intensifying its response to the emergency by sending an emergency response unit to Kenema, one of the worst affected areas in Sierra Leone.

The deployment was prompted by the urgent request from the government of Sierra Leone and the World Health Organization (WHO) to set up an isolation ward and provide clinical care to infected patients.

According to Panu Saaristo, the IFRC’s emergency health coordinator, “the Red Cross Red Crescent is extremely worried that the situation is spiralling out of control. The response capacity and resources of the government and humanitarian aid agencies in the affected countries are already stretched beyond the limit, and the virus continues to spread, making this the deadliest outbreak of Ebola ever.”

The situation has prompted the IFRC to make an exceptional allocation of 1 million Swiss francs from its disaster relief emergency fund (DREF) to mobilize an emergency response unit consisting of 15 international health workers and 7 support personnel as well as equipment to Sierra Leone.

“This fund is typically used to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross Red Crescent’s emergency response. The fact that we needed to allocate this amount from the DREF reflects the challenges in engaging the international community’s support. The last time such an amount was released was for the response to the Tsunami in 2004.”

The Sierra Leone Red Cross Society has been working closely with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) from the onset of the outbreak to help alleviate fears and dispel misinformation within affected communities through education and awareness activities, as well as assisting with the tracing and monitoring of suspected infections, and dead body management.

“The spread of the virus can only be halted with scaled-up support and coordinated action by all parties – governments, corporations, donors and aid organizations. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye on what is happening in western Africa. Inaction will cause the further spread of this deadly virus across the borders of this remote region, making true our fears.” Saaristo adds.

Earlier in April, the IFRC appealed for some 1.3 million Swiss francs to support the Sierra Leone Red Crescent Society, 2.6 million Swiss francs to support the Red Cross Society of Guinea and 1.8 million Swiss francsto support the Liberia Red Cross Society to respond to the outbreaks in the respective countries. All three appeals are currently underfunded.