|© UNICEF video|
|Mehmet Emin Ozcan lost his daughter Fatma, pictured in the newspaper, to avian influenza last year after she handled an infected duck. Her brother Muhammed, 5 (centre), was also infected.|
By Thomas Nybo
VAN PROVINCE, Turkey, 18 January 2007 – In the shadow of Mount Ararat, a father in eastern Turkey is trying to recover from the death of his 16-year-old daughter, Fatma. A year after Fatma died from avian influenza, Mehmet Emin Ozcan is still dazed and refuses to believe the doctors who suggest that she became ill after handling an infected duck in the family’s kitchen.
Health experts believe the bird flu virus is infecting high numbers of children like Fatma because they are often the ones responsible for feeding domestic poultry, as well as cleaning the pens and gathering eggs. Smaller children also put themselves at risk when they treat the birds as pets.
Mr. Ozcan is only 45 years old, but the wrinkles around his eyes run deep. His face tells the story of a tough life spent outdoors in an unforgiving environment. His first wife died in a hospital – the same hospital to which doctors wanted to send Fatma – and their explanations offer him no solace for the loss of the child he considered his favourite.
|© UNICEF video|
|Fatma’s five-year-old brother Muhammed survived bird flu after 17 days on a ventilator.|
"Fatma's death came all of a sudden and I have no explanation how she became ill," says Mr. Ozcan. "It was God's decision. I thought, 'Fatma is my child that I love the most!' But God decided to take her away from me." The only photos he has of Fatma are the ones from the newspapers, taken a few days before she died.
Mr. Ozcan has five other children. One of them, Muhammed, 5, also contracted avian influenza. He survived only after spending 17 days on a ventilator.
"Muhammed was also ill, but he did not die," Mr. Ozcan says, looking down at Muhammed, who sits next to the heater in their living room. "So God gave his life back to us."
Because of Turkey's proximity to Asia, Europe and Africa, migrating birds regularly travel through the country. Infected birds are believed to have passed the virus to domesticated flocks, mostly raised by poor communities. Doctors note that all four children who died here in 2006 had been in close contact with home-raised ducks and chickens.
After the outbreak hit last year, millions of chickens and other birds were slaughtered in affected countries, including Turkey.
UNICEF has been working closely with the Government of Turkey to educate people, especially those who raise birds at home, about proper hygiene and protection. UNICEF incorporated six messages into six different public service announcements that were distributed to local and national television stations.
Local religious leaders were also encouraged to incorporate the messages into their sermons.
|© UNICEF video|
|One strategy to combat bird flu involves constructing large poultry farms that are hermetically sealed from the outside world.|
Unlike the plentiful vaccines for seasonal influenza, any vaccines effective against a pandemic virus are not ready for commercial production, and would likely take months to become widely available after the start of a pandemic.
16 December 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on a father in Turkey who lost his daughter to avian influenza.
VIDEO high | low
video on demand
from The Newsmarket
UNICEF steps up bird flu awareness campaign in Bali [with video]
Education campaign in Georgia’s schools [with video]
Hygiene education battles bird flu in Egypt [with video]
Bird flu awareness campaign in Nigeria [with video]
Thai village spreads avian flu warnings [with video]
Flu devastates a family in Turkey [with video]
Bird flu in Viet Nam [with video]