Avian and Pandemic Influenza

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Moldovan children bring home messages on avian influenza prevention

© UNICEF/R.Munteanu
Magdalena, 10 years-old, is demonstrating how to wash egg-shelves before cooking, in front of her classmates from 4th grade, in the village of Magdacesti, Moldova.
    • Over 500 thousand school-age Moldovan children learned „THE SIX BASIC RULES ON PREVENTION OF AVIAN INFLUENZA.” 
    • Children were asked to share information with their parents and grandparents prompting them to adopt protective measures.

Every child from primary, secondary and high schools of Moldova participated in an interactive Special Hour on Avian Influenza prevention carried out by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport with UNICEF support on 11 May.

The event was carried out simultaneously nation-wide and was supported by a set of colorful and attractive materials for children and their parents. The content was geared for two age groups – for primary and secondary schools – featuring “SIX BASIC RULES ON PREVENTTION OF AVIAN INFLUENZA”. Each of the illustrated Info Note contained a detachable part for parents. Since every rural household in the country raises poultry, the children’s assignment was to use the detachable part when discussing with their families the danger of avian flu and ways to minimize the potential exposure to the infection.

The special event boosted a series of initiatives at local levels.  In Măgdăceşti village, visitors from the National Scientific and Practical Center of Preventive medicine, national media and UNICEF could observe a number of interactive activities complementing the Special Hour. The desired behaviours were modeled by children by means of social theatre, visual demonstrations of hygiene rules, drawing of posters and even writing poems on protection from avian flu.

Magdalena Spanu, a 10-year-old from the same village comes from a large household that rears chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits and pigs. She is proud to help her mother with household chores. She and her older brother used to feed the poultry and collect the eggs. Sometimes her father would allow her to help him clean the chicken pen.  “I liked playing with little chicken, but since we learned about avian flu I am not allowed to touch birds. I miss playing with chicken but I understand this is for my own safety”.

Magdalena was one of the most active in her class during the Special Hour. She was eager to find out about many aspects of avian flu and won the contest on drawings on the blackboard.

Her classmate Gheorghe Ursu (10) shares her attitude. "I will tell my parents how dangerous avian flu is. I will also urge them not to touch dead birds and to wash their hands frequently with soap. I will do the same.”

Nina Domneanu, director of Măgdăceşti School:  "Children help their parents and very often take care of birds in their households. We, teachers, were aware of the growing threat of the infection and the need to address this. In this respect the Special Hour initiative came as a great support to our efforts. The materials used in the event -  Info Notes, bookmarks with behavioural messages and the Teacher’s Guides on how to have a Special Hour -  were well appreciated by both teachers and children. Moreover, we are sure the messages will reach each household as children were eager to 'teach' their families.”

Over 170,000 Info Notes for primary school children, more than 340,000 for secondary and high school children, 37,000 Teachers’ Guides and 510,000 book marks were produced in Romanian and Russian for nation-wide dissemination, including the Transnistrian region.

The special event was only one in the array of activities foreseen by the National Communication Strategy on Prevention of Avian Flu in Moldova, developed with UNICEF support and adopted recently by the Government.

Moldova has not registered any cases of avian flu yet, though it is a high risk country, geographically situated directly in the path of migratory birds. Moldova directly borders Romania and Ukraine, where major outbreaks of avian influenza in birds were recorded. The country is also in close proximity to Turkey, and its south-eastern border touches the high-risk Danube delta where a significant number of migratory birds stop on their routes. 

UNICEF works closely with the Government of Moldova and donors to arm families with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves and their poultry from avian influenza. UNICEF’s experience in promoting behaviour change through on-the-ground networks – youth groups, medical staff, local authorities - determined why the national Inter-sectorial Working Group on Communication for AI Prevention entrusted UNICEF to lead in this area.

Author: Rodica Munteanu



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