Pandemic (H1N1) influenza
© UNICEF/2010/Naser Siddique
Passengers receive face masks at Kamalapur railway station, central Dhaka, before they head home for the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday.
What is happening?
Since the first case of pandemic influenza, or ‘swine flu’, was identified in June 2009, there have been 840 diagnosed cases and six deaths from H1N1 in Bangladesh (as of March 2010). However, it is estimated that many more people have been infected with the virus than have been officially detected.
How has UNICEF responded?
UNICEF has worked in close collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh, particularly by providing technical and financial support to its communication response to pandemic influenza.
In response to the initial outbreak, UNICEF developed an emergency communications strategy. Materials such as banners, posters and leaflets were used to raise awareness at all ports of entry and at railway, bus and launch terminals, particularly during the Eid and Puja religious festivals. More than 2 million leaflets, 150,000 posters and 225 large format banners about H1N1 were printed and disseminated with UNICEF support. The Government has since requested UNICEF to review and update the national communication strategy for pandemic and avian influenza, a process which is being finalised.
Other activities include:
- Using interactive popular theatre to raise awareness. Close to 200 script writers in all 8 divisions of the country, including seven indigenous groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, developed scripts during 2009. A total of 48 scripts in as many dialects were developed.
- Disseminating information at grassroots level through existing UNICEF projects, reaching almost 20 million people. For example, 10,000 community hygiene promoters received orientation on pandemic flu and then integrated these messages into their existing tea stall sessions and courtyard meetings.
- Using the mass media to create awareness, through TV announcements and drafting simple swine flu prevention messages for newspapers and radio.
- Developing a partnership with Bangladesh’s leading mobile phone provider, Grameenphone, which sent out 7 million SMS on H1N1 to their subscribers
- Providing 30,000 protection masks and 100,000 surgical masks to the Director-General Health Service for distribution.
- Working with faith-based organisations to develop a sermon booklet containing four Friday sermons on avian and pandemic flu. The key message was to promote handwashing with soap before prayer. More than 2500 imams attended a national conference on integrating influenza messages into their sermons.