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Life-saving information on Avian Influenza delivered to communities

Pre-school teacher in a village near Gorazde, helping children to read the child-friendly material produced to re-enforce the key messages on recommended behaviors.

In order to prepare children and families for a potential avian influenza outbreak, UNICEF, with financial support from USAID, is mobilizing partners in a joint effort to provide critical information about avian and pandemic influenza prevention and to avert the panic, especially in remote and poor communities. Activities include the development of a communication strategy; mass media production and community-based communication so that children and families gain life-saving knowledge and learn actions they can take to prevent the potential spread of the killer disease.

Children and their parents in a rural community near Gorazde carefully listening how to recognize sick domestic birds and how to avoid potential risk in their every-day life.

Interested to support UNICEF and USAID in their efforts to bring the vital advice closer to their beneficiaries, international NGO SOS Kinderdorf decided to include a half-hour workshop on avian influenza in their regular programme on Family Strengthening. This specific, direct and interactive method of interpersonal communication has already proved its effectiveness in these communities where the health workers, social services, teachers, pedagogues and volunteers are in constant contact with families hard to reach using mainstream mass media channels.

A series of face-to face discussions with children and their parents in schools, playgroups and local communities are taking place in Gorazde and its surroundings, facilitated by SOS Kinderdorf. At the same time, the same NGO is preparing similar activities in three more municipalities, as well as a mobile team called “Super-bus” communicating directly with children and their parents in remote communities. The activities related to education about AI prevention are building-up to a long-term initiative and will continue during this summer, and will be ready to repeat the process in case of an outbreak.

During this summer, UNICEF will also continue the communications initiative in Roma communities, offering critical AI prevention information to this group, extremely at-risk in many aspects.

Given the importance of timely preparation for the pandemic threat among small-scale poultry producers, UNICEF is also partnering with the Association of Farmers’ Cooperatives to bring simple and understandable advice to farmers throughout the country. The mass-media activities are also a part of this programme and UNICEF and its national partners are engaged both in production of educational and informative materials and in education of journalists and editors.

The AI threat for children, especially in rural areas is significant. According to UNICEF’s figures, almost half of fatalities caused by AI were children. UNICEF’s approach to AI prevention is focused on communication. UNICEF believes that timely information given to families can actually save lives.

Although avian influenza was not documented in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last 15 months, the invisible threat is present like in the rest of the world. UN specialists call for vigilance, warning that the virus is mutating, appearing in a much more dangerous form.

Scientists fear that a new strain, transmissible among humans, could potentially kill up to 50 million people. A vaccine against this strain cannot be produced as it does not yet exist. Recommended behaviors to prevent the disease are good hygienic habits, separating domestic from wild birds, and cooking poultry meat and eggs at over 75 degrees Celsius.






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