A famous actor, six children and many paper birds send a compelling message around the world
Like the origami birds they learned to make, the children were colourful in their co-starring roles with martial arts film star Jackie Chan. The UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office and partners called on the birds, the children and the Goodwill Ambassador to spotlight the dangers of avian influenza and the role children can play in protecting themselves and their families.
A public service announcement featuring Chan with six children, aged 6–9, began airing on major networks in August, including CNN International and Star TV, as well as local television stations throughout the region.
The BBC World Service ran a two-minute news story, noting the biggest star in China was taking on one of the world’s biggest threats. In the segment Chan spoke at a press conference in Hong Kong about reaching children: “…if we can help ten children, then it’s ten; if we only help two children, then two. At least children can get the knowledge that they should not feed the pigeons and the chickens.”
The BBC’s The World Today radio programme as well as AFP, AP, Bloomberg, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Channel News Asia, Antara News Agency, Global News Wire, Pravda and numerous metropolitan newspapers picked up the story of Jackie Chan taking on avian influenza.
The one-minute PSA shows Chan telling the children as they play with their origami creations that birds can pass on avian influenza to people, so it’s important to stay away from sick and dead birds, especially chickens.
“But playing with paper birds is fine,” a child chants. While the six children in the PSA live in Hong Kong, they come from different parts of the world, giving the cast an international flavour.
“It was great to work with this group of children on something that concerns Asia and the entire world. This is not about creating alarm but helping children be more alert and careful. When it comes to bird flu, we don’t want to take any chances with our kids,” said Jackie Chan after making the PSA.
A highly pathogenic form of avian influenza has been on the rise since mid 2003. The H5N1 virus was first detected in birds in South-East Asia and this year was reported in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Two hundred million birds have been killed directly by the virus or culled as the first line of defence to contain outbreaks and reduce the possibility of transmission to humans.
To date, there have been more than 240 human cases of influenza caused by the H5N1 virus, over half of which were fatal. The great majority of deaths have been in Asia. All evidence to date indicates that close contact with sick or dead birds is the principal source of human infection with the H5N1 virus.
Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR and Thailand have all reported fresh outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 strain in the past few months.
With funding from the Government of Japan, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office collaborated with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to produce the PSA.
The FAO is leading global efforts to eradicate avian influenza in birds, providing countries with policy advice, technical information, and support with surveillance, diagnosis and disease management. The WHO is coordinating the worldwide response to human cases of the virus including assisting countries with their influenza pandemic preparedness efforts, rapidly investigating new human cases and monitoring the evolution of the virus. UNICEF is working closely with UN organizations, governments and other partners to arm families with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves from avian influenza and reduce the risk of a human influenza pandemic.
To view the PSA. The PSA is available through the Newsmarket.