UNICEF Indonesia supports influenza pandemic preparedness
© UNICEF Indonesia/2009/Estey
During a pandemic simulation workshop in Tana Toraja, Indonesia, a focus group discusses ways to help women and children prepare for an influenza emergency.
By Suzanna Dayne
JAKARTA, Indonesia, 8 May 2009 – UNICEF Indonesia is supporting a series of simulation workshops to help the country prepare for a potential influenza pandemic.
The programme originated as part of the country’s avian influenza campaign. Indonesia is one of the nations worst affected by bird flu, and experts have warned that the avian virus could mutate sometime in the future and spark a pandemic. But no one knew when or where the outbreak would occur. Now with the onset of Influenza A (H1N1) in more than 20 countries so far, pandemic preparedness has become all too real.
For most people, it's difficult to imagine the impact of a pandemic. But with the rapid spread of H1N1, the results are clear: people being isolated in Hong Kong, for example, and schools closed in Mexico and other countries.
These developments are all very relevant to participants in Indonesia’s pandemic preparedness effort. The programme, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), includes nine workshops held across Indonesia vast archipelago. Participants come from a variety of government sectors, including communications, transportation, security, energy, food supply and a special group focusing on women and children.
National coordination is key
Experts predict a pandemic would come in waves over several months. Questions for workshop participants include: How much food do we need to provide to families? Are there enough workers to keep water and gas supplies flowing? When do we close schools, and what information do we need to give communities?
"I really didn't know much about the effects of a pandemic before this workshop", said Maryam Magdelena from West Papua's Women's Empowerment Organization. "I didn't realize how flu could be so deadly. We really need to plan how we can support women and children if there is an outbreak so we can reduce mortality."
A final workshop later this month will bring selected participants from around the country to test national coordination. Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation, and coordination is key to minimizing the impact of any pandemic.
‘Being prepared will save lives’
UNICEF is also helping to raise awareness among the general public. This includes producing posters and leaflets with flu prevention messages; these materials are being sent to schools nationwide. A public service announcement is in the works and a radio drama series is also being produced.
In addition, UNICEF is also working closely with the government and the media to support public awareness.
The World Health Organization alert is now at phase 5, just one step short of a pandemic. “Whether it is H1N1 that leads the world to this point or another new virus emerges, there is no doubt that being prepared will save lives,” said Dr. Anne Vincent, Chief of Child Survival and Development in UNICEF Indonesia.