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‘Covid-19 a wake-up call to international community’

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There is an urgent need for global solidarity to address the coronavirus pandemic – IFRC president

THE INTERNATIONAL Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) president, Francesco Rocca, has called for communities to come together to mitigate the immediate and secondary impacts of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic across the global community.

“Covid-19 is a wake-up call to the international community. There is an urgent need for global solidarity to address this pandemic. This crisis connects us all in an unprecedented way. The safety and well-being of each individual are critical for the safety and well-being of the entire world,” Rocca said in a statement following his briefing to United Nations permanent missions this week.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent were also scaling up community response efforts, early warning systems, and contact tracing across much of Africa.

“We are only starting to see glimpses of the impact Covid-19 might have on the African continent. We need to strengthen community response in under-resourced countries to help prevent the Covid-19 pandemic from becoming an even more complex disaster,” Rocca said.

There were already signs of hope. In Somaliland, a Red Crescent team that had already been trained to respond to disease outbreaks through community-based surveillance methods detected the first case of Covid-19 early. The proper steps were taken in sharing information, isolating the case, and alerting fellow community members.

Red Cross and Red Crescent teams were supporting even the most vulnerable communities affected by the crisis, Rocca said.

In Syria, Red Crescent volunteers were safely distributing food door-to-door, despite the ongoing threat of food insecurity among more than nine million people. Local personal protective equipment had been purchased, protecting volunteers operating ambulances around the clock.

In Bangladesh, volunteer teams across Cox’s Bazar had set up water distribution points and were going home-to-home to teach more than 372 000 people hand-washing skills. In Venezuela, teams had worked to provide more than 40 tons of humanitarian aid, including medical supplies and hygiene items, to those most in need. Dedicated Red Cross volunteers and staff were running more than 40 health care sites across the country.

The secondary impacts of Covid-19, such as poverty and the severe threat of food insecurity to millions of people around the world, “should give a wake-up a call to the international community”, Rocca warned.

“Covid-19 is changing our communities and we need to plan, together with institutions, a social response before it is too late. The higher price of food now means that an increasing number of families will likely be reducing the number of meals they consume per day,” he said.

To further slow, and eventually halt the spread of the pandemic, “measures should be guided by health data and supported by responsible communication to all citizens”.

This included adequate testing, contact tracing, and strengthening of health care systems, as well as providing psycho-social support for community members. 

To ensure a proper response was possible, Rocca urged that essential humanitarian aid be able to flow into countries without added barriers such as sanctions.

“Procedures for exemptions are often lengthy and costly. We are engaging with the stakeholders concerned to seek exemptions for essential humanitarian items and to meet the urgent needs of the population,” Rocca said.

He emphasised that prevention measures, including proper hand washing and physical distancing, should remain steadily in place, as well as consistent community engagement to ensure that people felt informed and empowered – both key factors to help save millions of lives.

– African News Agency (ANA)