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Working on a New Capacity Building Strategy for the Zika Response

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The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, through its Zika Operation and with technical support from the Reference Center for Institutional Disaster Preparedness (CREPD) and the Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Centre (CADRIM), held a 3-day regional meeting to revise the capacity building strategy that supports the response to the Zika outbreak.

Held on February 7-9, 2017, the meeting took place at the IFRC Americas Regional Office in Panama City and participants included the Red Cross of Honduras and Ecuador, CREPD, CADRIM, OFDA/USAID, the Zika Caribbean project representatives and the Zika Operation team for Latin America.

At the end of 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that Zika no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern. However, with 48 countries and hundreds of thousands of people affected by the epidemic in the Americas, Zika continues to represent an important public health concern in the region. Additionally, strategies to respond to Zika must be viewed in the long-term due to associated cases of congenital syndrome and neurological complications.

Within this context, the IFRC Zika Operation and partners look to build on the existing capacity building strategy in a collective manner, incorporating different points of view and experiences, to obtain effective and innovative tools and methodologies. The first step in this process was the 3-day meeting in Panama, where specialists were able to review the capacity building modules and create a roadmap towards more innovative, better adapted and up-to-date teaching methodologies in Zika.

“Epidemics today are a global concern, so our capacity building strategy needs to reflect that. We are developing a roadmap that takes us beyond Zika and beyond just the Americas. Our educational agenda should allow other partners and country health authorities to adapt it to their needs and realities when responding to vector borne diseases. It must also be adaptable and flexible to incorporate new methodologies and technologies.” – said Lorenzo Violante, Policy, Strategy, and Knowledge Coordinator, IFRC.

The Zika Operation began its response to the Zika outbreak in February 2016, after the WHO declared Zika as a public health emergency of international concern and an international emergency appeal was launched by the IFRC. Since then, the Operation, CREPD and CADRIM worked to adapt and develop capacity building modules specific to health-related issues in Zika, including an introductory module on Zika, psychosocial support in emergencies, sanitation and hygiene promotion and epidemic control for volunteers.

Over the past year, the Operation together with CREPD and CADRIM held 5 regional trainings of trainers, providing facilitator certification to 127 participants from 18 National Societies. At the same time, more than 700 people have completed online training on Zika and epidemiological control, and over 2,000 volunteers were reached through capacity building activities.