Community Epidemic & Pandemic Preparedness
Epidemics begin and end in communities. When communities are engaged and trained in epidemic preparedness and response, they become vital contributors to finding and stopping outbreaks, saving lives, restoring services, reducing negative impacts, speeding recovery and building resilience.
The IFRC has long focused on helping communities prepare and respond to health emergencies through its 190 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. Launched in 2017 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) scales up that effort. The program strengthens the ability of communities, National Societies and other partners in 8 target countries to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats and play a significant role in preparing for future risks.
CP3 is different in each country where it is being rolled out. The program is designed to be adaptable—based on the country’s priorities, needs, risks and capacities. It also complements and builds on existing national emergency response plans. The program has started in Indonesia, Uganda, Cameroon, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, and will soon be expanded to Guinea and Mali.
Many outbreaks go unnoticed until many people in the same community become gravely ill. All too often, communities lack the knowledge or skills to take preventative action. We’re working to change this by ensuring communities have basic information about the spread of diseases and how to prevent them, simple and effective systems to detect outbreaks, and communications mechanisms that ensure timely information sharing and community engagement.
Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have extraordinary reach in communities the world over, and in their supporting role to governments, are often central to emergency responses amid outbreaks. We are working to strengthen their epidemic preparedness and response capacity, and at the same time, help them develop and train networks of volunteers to support early detection and early action to outbreaks.
Epidemics not only threaten lives, but all aspects of society, including food production, trade, transportation and education. When services and employment are disrupted, day to day life is turned upside down. This part of the project works to prepare and engage the private sector and other key stakeholders like religious leaders and the media in epidemic preparedness and response.
The IFRC, National Societies and other partners have developed effective tools, trainings, manuals and technology to boost community capacity, before, during and after health emergencies. They include health literacy curriculum for school children, first aid applications, a toolkit that helps communities identify risks and guidelines on community engagement.
Uganda Red Cross has been scaling up its response to help prepare communities and to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus. Volunteers are in high-risk areas, sensitizing communities about Ebola – providing information about the virus, what they can do to protect themselves, and screening the thousands of individuals who cross the border each day. Community engagement through music, drama, and mobile cinemas have also been employed to reach thousands of people. Through Uganda Red Cross’ extensive network of community-based volunteers, a powerful surveillance system has been set up, in coordination with other actors and the Ministry of Health. This system helps stop the virus’ spread, detecting outbreaks before they happen.