‘Social workers around the world will perform a crucial role in responding to the anticipated swine flu pandemic’, said David N Jones, IFSW President on 29 April 2009, speaking from the European social work conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia attended by almost 800 social workers, social work educators and social service administrators from most countries of Europe.
Conference attendees expressed concerns during the conference that public social services in many countries are poorly equipped to deal with a major health crisis such as this. Given the current international financial crisis, many governments have been cutting budgets for social services.
‘We know that among disaster survivors and victims, we find some of the most vulnerable populations of central concern to the social work profession’, David Jones added: ‘pregnant women and children, poor people, older people, people with disabilities, people who are isolated or living in residential care and those who might otherwise be at risk. These populations are among the most vulnerable during any disaster or crisis and require special attention. They require immediate relief and should be the primary focus of recovery efforts.
‘Social workers play a critical role in helping societies cope with major disasters and public health crises. They need the tools to do the job’, David Jones concluded.
The International Federation of Social Workers is working to develop guidelines on social work responses to pandemics, also taking into account the ethical and human rights implications of different scenarios.
IFSW endorses the following advice for people during the risk of pandemic:
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill and stay home when you are ill.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands often and before/after eating or congregating such as class or parties. Use sanitizing hand gel if unable to wash hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
NOTE TO EDITORS
IFSW is the global federation of national social work organisations in 90 countries representing over 745,000 social workers. IFSW European Region has 40 member associations in 35 countries, with a total membership of 165,600 social workers. IFSW has special consultative status with United Nations Economic and Social Council and is also accredited to the International Labour Organization, UNICEF and the Council of Europe. IFSW is a UN Habitat partner organisation.
European Commission Press Conference on novel flu virus