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At a glance: Indonesia

Community education campaign raises bird flu awareness in Central Java

© UNICEF/HQ06-1019/Purnomo
A woman wearing a scarf to cover her mouth and nose collects chickens to sell at the market in Semarang, the capital of Central Java Province, Indonesia.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, New York, USA, 22 November 2006 – In Central Java, Indonesia, UNICEF has trained 40,000 community educators to warn people about the dangers of avian influenza, or bird flu. The educators will reach out to villagers across the region, informing the population about how to recognize the disease and prevent its spread from birds to humans.

Many Indonesian families live in close proximity to their poultry. When a bird gets sick, it is hazardous for the family. The UNICEF-trained educators in the Central Java outreach campaign are focusing on four simple messages to help them avoid infection:

• Do not touch sick or dead poultry with your bare hands
• Wash your hands with soap and water after contact with poultry
• Separate poultry and humans
• Report to the nearest health clinic if anyone in the family develops fever or other symptoms.

© UNICEF/HQ06-1020/Purnomo
Women sell ducks and chickens at market in the city of Semarang, Central Java Province.

Changing habits

One of the educators, Sri Ase, a housewife who used to educate mothers on proper nutrition, has now switched to fighting bird flu.

“I show them symptoms of bird flu on a brochure,” she says. “The chicken’s crest turns blue, the legs are scarred. If a chicken dies suddenly, we tell them to use a plastic bag to dispose of it and then wash their hands with soap.”

Ms. Ase says there are other habits that the people must change, as well, in order to avoid the disease: “They should wash eggs with soap before cooking them and hard boil them. I also tell people they don’t need to be scared of eating chicken if they boil it.”

© UNICEF/HQ06-1021/Purnomo
A villager walks past an open pen in a village near Kedall, Central Java Province.

Focus on earthquake zone

This year in Central Java’s Bantul District alone, the World Health Organization has reported more than 9,000 bird flu-related deaths among chicken and ducks. In other parts of the country, the disease has spread to humans, reportedly killing 55 out of 72 people infected.

While the education campaign is far-reaching and promises to be effective, it’s a hard fight in Central Java, where thousands of families lost their homes and livelihoods in the devastating earthquake that struck in May. Given the makeshift nature of many people’s homes, the virus has ideal conditions in which to spread.

While protecting their families from the avian influenza virus is a concern, the first priority for many of the region’s residents is finding a home. Until they can resume normal life with a permanent roof over their heads, it is hard to focus on bird flu prevention.

It is precisely for this reason that UNICEF is focusing the education campaign’s initial phase on the earthquake-affected areas of Indonesia, where people are at greater risk and in the greatest need.




21 November 2006:
UNICEF Radio’s Sophie Boudre reports on UNICEF Indonesia’s grassroots efforts to educate the population on the dangers of avian influenza.
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