Despite numerous humanitarian challenges in 2017 in Africa, there were also a number of heart-warming accomplishments. A case in point, was when a local response of Red Crescent teams—and other partners—curbed Somalia's cholera outbreak through the power of local volunteers and shared international expertise. In terms of support to our members, 36 National Societies were able to kick start initiatives that built their capacity through seed grants.
It is such highlights that I am pleased to present in this annual report for 2017, a year during which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Africa continued to pursue the direction and specific milestones defined in the “IFRC in Africa, Road Map 2017 – 2020.” The humanitarian context in 2017 remained challenging. A food crisis continued to worsen in Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, north-east Nigeria and Central African Republic (CAR). The refugee crisis in Uganda was compounded by a new influx of thousands of people fleeing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In Madagascar, an outbreak of pneumonic plague killed over 100 people. In the same year, Cyclone Enawo, the strongest storm to hit Madagascar in over a decade, left enormous humanitarian needs in its wake.
Perhaps one of the most dreadful humanitarian disasters of the year was when deadly mudslides killed over 1,000 people in a very short time on the outskirts Freetown, Sierra Leone, leaving about 8,000 families of survivors in need of humanitarian assistance.
Our gallant volunteers responded to all of these challenges with unerring courage and determination. Sadly, it was not without a price: several volunteers lost their lives in line of duty in 2017. Six Red Cross volunteers were killed in an attack on a health centre in southeast Central African Republic on 3 August.
That was the third attack on Red Cross workers in Central African Republic that year. In January 2017, in Nigeria, six Red Cross aid workers were killed in an airstrike on the town of Rann, near the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.
My experience as the IFRC Regional Director for Africa continues to be immeasurably rewarding. The commitment of the network of African Red Cross and Red Crescent staff, volunteers and partners in response to the needs of vulnerable communities has inspired me to be deeply committed to the Movement. It is humbling to see the greatest strength of African National Societies – the volunteers – at work. The 1.4 million volunteers in Africa who selflessly offer unparalleled presence at local level. They help us to respond fast, and to go the extra mile.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers and IFRC colleagues who made 2017 a successful, if challenging, year. Their dedication and hard work has ensured we've reached millions across the region. This report provides useful insights and inspiration for taking humanitarian work in Africa to the next level.
Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré Regional Director, IFRC Africa