avian influenza infects birds. If it found a more convenient
host in humans, the results would be deadly; the scale and
magnitude would be greater than any hospital, humanitarian
organization or government could cope with.
Responding effectively to a bird flu pandemic would require
everyone to work together — governments, civil society,
health personnel and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Already, many National Societies are preparing for and responding
to outbreaks of bird flu. Volunteers are spreading messages
about safe food handling in markets and restaurants. At the
same time, senior Red Cross Red Crescent managers are working
with their counterparts in other organizations to set up systems
and networks they hope will never spring into action.
In preparing for the worst, National Societies, the International
Federation and the ICRC draw on experience with health emergencies
such as SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome), Ebola, cholera
and other non-health emergencies. Without trained Red Cross
Red Crescent volunteers such as ours, in every community,
the world could not hope to prepare for or respond adequately
to a pandemic.
Even as we hope for the best, the work we do now constitutes
invaluable experience, not only to prepare for a pandemic,
but also for other similar global threats.