Red Cross to train more volunteers to scale up Ebola fight

The Red Cross said on Thursday it planned to train more than 2,000 extra volunteers to step up its response to the deadly Ebola outbreak ravaging west Africa. -- PHOTO: AFP
The Red Cross said on Thursday it planned to train more than 2,000 extra volunteers to step up its response to the deadly Ebola outbreak ravaging west Africa. -- PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - The Red Cross said on Thursday it planned to train more than 2,000 extra volunteers to step up its response to the deadly Ebola outbreak ravaging west Africa.

"With dozens of new cases emerging daily, this outbreak is showing no signs of slowing down," said Alasan Senghore, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' Africa unit.

"People are dying. If we are serious about stopping Ebola, we cannot afford to delay ramping up our response," he said in a statement.

Since the outbreak began at the beginning of the year, IFRC said it had trained some 3,500 volunteers across the three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and that it planned to push that number to over 5,600.

Those three countries account for nearly all of the 2,296 Ebola deaths seen so far in the west Africa outbreak, according to the World Health Organization.

"Engaging communities through our trained volunteers will have an immediate and large pay-off, as messages of prevention will be shared by community members themselves," Senghore said.

IFRC said it was significantly revising up its appeal for funds to cover its activities the three countries to 30.2 million Swiss francs (S$40.79 million), an increase of 24 million francs over its last estimate.

The cash injection, it said, would allow it reach 21.9 million people - more than double the number it had originally targeted - as it expanded its operations into new districts and countries.

The push would focus heavily on communication and awareness-raising in affected communities, and would cover a new 60-bed Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone's hard-hit Kenema district, IFRC said.

The organisation said it had also launched an emergency appeal for 1.6 million Swiss francs to fund its operations in Nigeria, where Ebola has killed eight people.

It added that it had released funds to scale up its response in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hit by an outbreak of a separate Ebola strain, which has killed 35 people so far.