UNICEF Bangladesh - Our work - Avian influenza

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Avian influenza

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2009/Qausar Hossain
A folk theatre group performs a play about avian influenza in Comilla, Chittagong division.

What is happening?
Periodic outbreaks of avian influenza or ‘bird flu’ in poultry have been a concern in Bangladesh since March 2007, when the first case of H5N1 virus was detected in birds. To contain the threat, the Government of Bangladesh had culled over 1.65 million birds in and around infected farms by January 2009.

In January 2008, a 16-month old boy contracted the H5N1 ‘bird flu’ virus. The boy was the first and only human case reported in Bangladesh. He survived.

Person to person transmission of avian influenza is not yet possible. Should this change, a human flu pandemic would be inevitable. The pandemic would threaten every aspect of children’s lives.

Spread of the virus has already compromised household economies and the nutritional status of women and children.

UNICEF’s response
In collaboration with the Government’s Department of Mass Communication, UNICEF works to educate local communities about the risks of avian influenza (AI) and encourage individuals to adopt safe behaviours to avoid transmission of the virus from animal to human.

Folk theatre groups tour the country to present music and plays on avian influenza. Folk songs and plays encourage people to wash their hands properly and observe other safe behaviours when handling birds, poultry meat and eggs.
AI protection messages are also included in a range of campaign and education materials:

  • Rickshaws and vans equipped with megaphones announce health and safety advice in meat and poultry markets.
  • Posters explain the dangers of AI to local people.
  • AI training manuals provide poultry farmers with the knowledge to improve hygiene practices and reduce risks for livestock and humans.
  • TV and radio spots on public and private channels encourage hand-washing and other safe behaviours.

UNICEF trains community hygiene promoters about the virus, so that they can include prevention messages in their hygiene education sessions. Health professionals, local administrators, community volunteers and Scout leaders have also received training.

UNICEF works with the Press Institute of Bangladesh to create awareness among journalists about the dangers of AI and their responsibility to provide accurate and timely information to the public.

UNICEF collaborates with the Government and other international agencies to control the virus and further prepare ministries, hospitals and the general public for a human pandemic.







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