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Children in the snow in Agri Province, Turkey


With more cases of Avian Influenza appearing around the world, and the threat of a human influenza pandemic looming, WHO and international partners have declared all countries to be in Pandemic Alert Period Phase Three (a total of six phases have been established by WHO).

The deaths of four children in Turkey at the beginning of the year have highlighted the need for massive and concerted action to prevent the spread of infections.

To help UNICEF Country Offices prepare, the Regional Offices for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) organized a workshop on Avian Influenza Communication, Preparedness and Response in Chavannes-de-Bogis, Switzerland from 6-8 February.

The Workshop had four guiding principles:

-- We must keep children in the spotlight

-- We must be seized by a sense of urgency

-- We must galvanise action with partners

-- We must deliver

The workshop, pulled together in just three weeks, was intended for around 40 participants from directly affected CEE/CIS countries and a few MENA neighbours. But as word spread, the workshop had to double in size to meet demand.

At least 80 colleagues came to Chavannes-de-Bogis in Switzerland for the workshop, including communication, health and/or emergency staff from 19 UNICEF Country Offices, plus colleagues from East Africa, East Asia, UNICEF's Emergency Programme and its Supply Division.

Experts from WHO and FAO laid out the global and regional picture on AI and David Nabarro, Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, sent a personal video message.

For many participants, this was their first chance to get an update on the latest developments and discuss the implications for UNICEF and for children.

While WHO and FAO are the lead agencies worldwide on AI in humans and in birds respectively, UNICEF is the lead agency on AI programme communication to prevent a pandemic, hence the heavy emphasis on communication at this workshop.


Day One laid it all out: information on global and regional trends; the UNICEF response in CEE/CIS and MENA; and an update from the Turkey Country Office, which has been on the frontline of recent infections.

Day Two focused on communication strategies and tools, first developed in EAPRO and now being put to work in Turkey. Sub-regional groups worked on a blank communication matrix that must now worked through with national partners.

Day Three shifted to emergency preparedness, with participants reviewing and updating a draft contingency plan. The final plan will harmonized and issued alongside detailed national contingency plans.


What happens next:

Every UNICEF Office will create an Avian Influenza Crisis Management Team. All offices will work with their partners to draw up a national programme communication plan so that everyone know what messages need to be communicated, and how. Offices will also draw up emergency contingency plans, looking at how to maintain UNICEF programmes in the event of a pandemic. How will schooling continue if school are closed, for example? How will health centres cope?


Latest figures from WHO confirm a total of 12 cases of avian influenza in humans, rather than the 21 originally suspected. All four deaths were of children, as were 90% of cases.

Total cases: 12
Unconfirmed cases: 9
Total deaths: 4
Under 18 cases: 12
Unconfirmed under 18 cases: 8
Under 18 deaths: 4
Under 18 female deaths: 3
Under 18 male deaths: 1

For more information:

Angela Hawke, Communication Officer, UNICEF CEE/CIS
Tel: (+4122) 909 5433






Avian & Pandemic Influenza    


UNICEF in Turkey  


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Selami Bas: a survivor





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