At the end of 2005, Viet Nam was one of the worst affected countries by avian influenza outbreaks in poultry and had also reported the highest number of human cases. Strong control efforts and leadership by the Government of Viet Nam managed to bring the outbreaks under control with no new cases in poultry and humans in over one year. Since late 2006, however, Viet Nam has faced two other waves of outbreaks and a recurrence of human cases. Recognizing the changing nature of avian influenza and the uncertainty of the outbreaks, the Government has reinforced their strong commitment to respond to AI and reduce the social and economic impact for the Vietnamese people. This commitment includes recognizing the long-term challenge, the need for continued support from the international and local community, as well as the importance of public awareness and communication.
UNICEF, as part of the Joint Government – UN Programme to Fight Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), is the coordinating agency for the avian influenza public awareness and behavior change communication (BCC) activities. As communication activities are a cross-cutting and integral part of the fight against avian influenza in Viet Nam, implementing an effective BCC campaign has remained a priority of the Joint-Programme.
Comprehensive Communications Strategy and Development: Building upon the success of the previous campaign, UNICEF, as coordinator of the communication activities, supported the development of a dynamic and innovative public awareness campaign involving many sectors, many channels and many target groups. With the very strong and unifying theme of the campaign “Joint Effort to Keep Viet Nam Avian Influenza Free,” strong action, partnership and sustainability will serve as the underlying guidelines of the communications campaign. The campaign, utilizing the UNICEF CREATE! framework and regional support, resulted in materials with eye-catching images, bright colors, bold text and clear messaging. The overall strategy included a multi-layered approach including mass media – television, radio and print – reinforced by interpersonal communication activities.
Capacity Building: Training activities have been identified as key elements to create a nation-wide network of behaviour change communicators with the capacity to deliver AI messages to their networks. This is critical to support Viet Nam to move from an emergency phase to a long-term capacity building phase in its fight against AI. UNICEF’s support includes trainings for government officials and staff, community health workers, agricultural extension workers, health educators in schools and grassroots communicators at national, provincial, district and commune levels.
Monitoring and Evaluation: UNICEF regularly monitors and evaluates AI communication activities in order to ensure impact and effectiveness of the communications interventions. Recently, the UNICEF office assisted in the adaptation a Monitoring and Evaluation Toolkit developed at the regional level, which aims at offering a framework for AI M&E activities. Future plans include training counterparts and interested parties on this toolkit.
In the AI communication activities, UNICEF works closely with international and national NGOs and UN agencies (UNDP, FAO and WHO). Key national counterparts include the Department of Animal Health, Centre for Health Education, National Agricultural Extension Centre, Ministry of Education and Training and the Viet Nam Administration of Preventative Medicine. In addition, mass organizations are also involved in these common efforts including the Viet Nam Red Cross, the Viet Nam Women’s Union and the Viet Nam Farmers' Union.