EAST AFRICA: Red Cross stresses volunteer role in tackling HIV/AIDS
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
NAIROBI, 21 December (PLUSNEWS) - Red Cross and Red Crescent society members and public health campaigners at a regional meeting in Kenya have called for a significant increase in activities to counteract the HIV/AIDS pandemic in eastern Africa, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported on Thursday.
Participants from the national Red Cross societies of Kenya, Madagascar and Rwanda, members of a Regional Task Force on HIV/AIDS, also agreed that "no significant scaling up of health activities can take place without better volunteer management" of national societies if the Red Cross movement is to successfully fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
"Now it's time to deliver", Appolinaire Karamaga from the Rwandan Red Cross told delegates at the HIV/AIDS task force meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Several national societies in eastern Africa have been working on guidelines that would help them not only recruit more volunteers but also retain their volunteers longer, in an effort to address HIV/AIDS and other humanitarian concerns of the Red Cross movement, the Federation reported.
The new guidelines contain a series of measures, such as better job descriptions, clearly defined tasks, long-term prospects, training plans and different methods of recognition.
"Above all, we must learn from one another," said Francoise Randriamiharisoa from the Malagasy Red Cross.
Successful work by Red Cross volunteers, such as November's mass measles immunisation campaign in Uganda, were also shared among the group.
The Uganda Red Cross Society, through its network of over 1,300 volunteers, was involved in educating local communities on the need for vaccination and in mobilising parents to make their children available for immunisation during the 10-11 Ugandan campaign.
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Special efforts had been made during education campaigns to overcome traditional opposition to immunisation in both rural and urban areas. In Mbarara District, southwestern Uganda, the Red Cross Society had been vital to countering rumours that the vaccine could cause illness, rather than prevent it, Alice Uwase, acting Secretary-General of the Uganda Red Cross told IRIN.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) - who carried out the campaign jointly with the Ugandan Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the Red Cross movement - said November's mass immunisation in Uganda would prevent over 15,000 childhood deaths over the next three years.
Building on such successes in general, and especially to help tackle HIV/AIDS, was the particular focus of the Nairobi meeting.
"We have to take advantage of the new momentum gained during this second regional task force meeting", said Dr Mustapha Bashir, President of the Sudanese Red Crescent and a member of the Federation's Health Commission.