|© UNICEF Myanmar/2008/Myo Thame|
|Than Naing Soe, a township livestock official in Shan State, Myanmar, takes part in a three-day training session on communication skills for avian influenza prevention.|
By Sandar Linn
NYAUNG SHWE, Myanmar, 13 October 2008 – More than 60 health and livestock professionals are now ready to implement their communication workplan on avian influenza, which was drafted during a recent three-day training session held in Nyaung Shwe Township, Shan State.
The plan aims to make a significance contribution towards combating the threat of bird flu here in an area that is at high risk for a potential outbreak. Nyaung Shwe is close to a wetland wildlife sanctuary located on a major north-south migration path for birds.
Improving communication skills
The training was organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, the Ministry of Health, local authorities and UNICEF to equip front frontline communicators with skills in disseminating avian influenza messages to families and community members.
UNICEF has been designated as UN focal point for avian influenza risk communication, and the Government of Japan has provided financial support of $1.9 million for this communication effort.
In March 2006, the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries reported the first outbreak of the disease among chickens in central Myanmar. On 18 November 2007, the country saw its first reported human case in a seven-year-old girl.
“This training is very important, because I learned a lot on communication approaches that I was not aware of before,” said one of the participants, livestock official Than Naing Soe, adding that he already had technical knowledge about avian influenza but did not have expertise in communications.
“The training gives us the opportunity for the best combination of our professional and communication skill, which will result in delivering preventive messages effectively to the community,” he noted.
At the training session, participants learned essential communication skills through active group discussion and role playing.
Access to information
Following the training, an awareness-raising presentation on prevention of avian and pandemic influenza was held at the heart of the Inle wetland. More than 400 people attended.
Such public talks significantly enhance the dissemination of prevention messages to communities. Posters in local ethnic languages, pamphlets, booklets for children, and TV and radio spots on key messages have also been produced and distributed to help prevent bird flu in Myanmar.
The need for such measures is clear: According to a 2006 study on poultry rearing and other practices pertaining to avian influenza, 65 per cent of respondents in Myanmar lacked access to information about the disease and how to prevent it.
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