Red Cross Red Crescent boosts efforts to bring global health initiatives to local communities
17 May 2006

Geneva, Switzerland: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is focusing on its growing role of bringing global health initiatives to local community level through its network of volunteers across the world.

Representatives of  up to 40 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are meeting in Geneva for The Global Health and Care Forum from May 17-19, one week before the opening of the World Health Assembly in Geneva. They will bring together their experiences to strengthen the Federation’s international strategies on key health topics such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and avian influenza.

“The involvement of local communities is essential to implement the global health initiatives,” says Dr Bruce Eshaya-Chauvin, Head of the Health Department at the International Federation. National Societies, with their commitment to community mobilization, network of volunteers and their place as auxiliaries to the public authorities, have much to offer,” he adds.

The Global Health and Care Forum will include the presenting of best practices in improving the local health conditions through community-based health care programmes. One of these is The Child Survival Project initiated in 900 communities in the eastern part of Ghana where infant and under five mortality rates have dropped forty to fifty percent between 1998 and 2003. The Ghana Red Cross Society developed a network of local ‘mother’s clubs’ to pass on prevention messages. The decrease of infant mortality was achieved through programmes of The Ghana Red Cross and working in conjunction with the government and United Nations Children Fund.

More recently, there was an integrated project in malaria and polio prevention in Niger that reached almost every household. Nearly 4,000 Niger Red Cross volunteers distributed over 2 million mosquito nets to mothers of children under five after receiving a grant from the Global Fund To Fight  AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other partners. The integrated campaign in Niger also made it possible for children to be vaccinated against polio. A follow-up project called “Hang Up campaign” is currently taking place to further educate the families in proper use of the nets before the rainy season starts. “The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies and National Societies work hard to ensure there are follow-up initiatives in place so that each family in the local communities not only receive bednets but also the support and education on their proper use,” says Dr Bruce Eshaya-Chauvin.

Dr Eshaya-Chauvin also points out that such outstanding achievements were only made possible thanks to the growing efforts of National Societies and partnership at local and international levels. “A good example of partnership is the agreement signed between the International Federation and the World Health Organization to strengthen the operational and policy relations between National Societies and Health Ministries in respective countries in targeting the most vulnerable in affected communities,” he concludes.

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