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At a glance: Indonesia

Young scouts add voices to curb bird flu in West Java

© UNICEF video
Scouts in Indonesia perform a play showing the safe thing to do when you find a dead bird. Indonesia has a high incidence of bird flu, with West Java particularly affected.

By Arie Rukmantara

WEST JAVA, Indonesia, 19 August  2008 – More than 5,000 Indonesian boy and girl scouts have pledged to fight the battle against avian influenza in their home province of West Java. The scouts recently gathered at a seaside town in Sukabumi district to learn about bird flu and how they can help protect their communities from the deadly virus.

The event was a small part of a massive nationwide campaign that was launched in 2006, when experts warned that if the virus mutated, it could lead to a global pandemic.

“Since we started the campaign, we have worked with teachers and students, community members and religious leaders to get these life-saving messages out to the public,” said UNICEF West Java Field Office Chief Steve Aswin. “The scouts of Indonesia are a great way to build on that foundation. They understand the problem and are committed to helping.”

Dangers of raising poultry

Indonesia is the most bird flu-affected country in the world with 135 cases and 110 fatalities. Some 40 per cent of all victims are children.

© UNICEF video
Actors take part in a play to spread awareness of the dangers of avian influenza in Indonesia.

Many Indonesians raise poultry in their backyards, so children often find themselves in close contact with these birds.

Scout Adista Mawarni, 9, said her family doesn’t have any chickens – but her neighbours do. “Sometimes the chickens walk near our house. I didn’t know until now how dangerous bird flu was,” she said.

Scouts as ‘agents of change’

UNICEF, with funding from Canada and Japan, has so far reached some 5 million children and 100,000 communities with educational materials on avian influenza. In addition, a mass media campaign has reached every province in the country through television, radio and print.

UNICEF has long been working with schools and community groups. The collaboration with scout groups is the latest venture.

"Children are agents of change and can bring information to their families, especially information on how to protect themselves and their families from deadly diseases such as bird flu,” said Mr. Aswin.

Communicating through the arts

Nina Rusmalina, 18, said she and her fellow scouts are going door to door to raise awareness about bird flu. “I think if everyone understood the problem really well, then they would do something. We have to make sure they don’t forget,” she said.

Nina was part of a group of scouts who performed a short play for their fellow scouts to show what to do if bird flu hits their village. Communicating through the arts and education have been key to the UNICEF programme.

“We all have to do something,” said Nina. “It is my responsibility to also fight this disease. I am thrilled to be part of the campaign that tries to save lives.”




UNICEF’s Suzanna Dayne reports on the involvement of girl and boy scouts in spreading awareness about the dangers of avian influenza in West Java, Indonesia.
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