Together with Ministries of Health and other partners across seven countries in West Africa, UNICEF is using text messaging through mobile phones, radio shows, TV programmes and door-to-door campaigns to disseminate life-saving information in an effort to contain the often-fatal Ebola virus.
“Most of the people in this part of the world had never heard of Ebola before,” said Dr. Guido Borghese, UNICEF Principal Advisor Child Survival and Development for West and Central Africa. “In this environment, unfounded fears and rumours spread quickly and widely. More than ever, it is crucial that families have both the means and the right information to protect themselves and prevent dangerous misunderstandings.”
In collaboration with partners such as the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF is stepping up efforts to design culturally-sensitive communication strategies and raise awareness of Ebola, at the grassroots level, across the seven at-risk or affected countries in West Africa.
In Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau, mass and digital media and inter-personal communication activities are being carried out to prevent people contracting the Ebola virus amongst communities and health workers in mosques, churches, schools, health centres and markets.
Additionally, UNICEF is providing critical prevention supplies, such as soap, chlorine, and gloves to the people in affected communities across West Africa.
West Africa is witnessing its first major outbreak of Ebola, which has no vaccine and no cure. The disease has already claimed 111 lives in Guinea and neighbouring Liberia as of 8 April 2014. In total, a growing number of 178 suspected, probable and confirmed cases have been reported in Guinea and Liberia, as well as six suspected cases in Mali.
“Radio dramas, print materials, TV shows, and even voice messages are automatically sent to mobile phones - we use every appropriate means of communication to reach more people, spread the word in local languages and save lives,” adds Borghese. “We are running against time to avoid further spread in West Africa.”
“Ebola kills people; but more lives are put at risk because of lack of information or misinformation though rumours,” stressed Borghese. “There is no existing vaccine against Ebola. Bringing patients with suspected symptoms to health centres as soon as possible increases their chances of survival and prevents other people from getting infected.”
UNICEF is urgently appealing for US$1.2 million (£722,000) for Guinea and almost US$1.3 million (£782,600) for neighbouring countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Mali, to provide disinfectant products, essential medicines, life-saving supplies and communication support crucially needed to stop Ebola from spreading further across West Africa.
Notes to editors:
In Guinea, UNICEF and partners are communicating life-saving information about the disease door-to-door and distributing posters and leaflets. In Liberia, UNICEF has worked with telecommunications companies to send out 500,000 text messages about Ebola.
Across Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, UNICEF is taking part in local radio shows. In Cote d'Ivoire, in addition to hygiene equipment, UNICEF has supported health districts in the region of Man with four tents that have been set up as isolation centres. In Mali, UNICEF is helping to develop communication messages around hygiene practices to be disseminated through community radio networks in the affected regions.
In the most-affected areas of Guinea including the capital Conakry, UNICEF has distributed 77,400 bottles of liquid chlorine, more than 300,000 bars of soap, 150,000 pairs of gloves, 670 sprayers and 1,650kg of Calcium Hypochlorite (HCH) to medical workers and communities.
In Liberia, UNICEF has provided seven cholera kits, eight large tents to establish isolation units, 15,360 pieces of soap, 725 kg of chlorine and disinfectant products, 100 basic family water kits, 4,830 boxes of disinfectant, over 9,200 buckets and 2,360 jerry cans.
In addition, UNICEF is supplying national and local health authorities in Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Mali with prevention medical equipment, including soap, gloves, tents, hygiene kits and two large isolation units, required to help contain and prevent Ebola.
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