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Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan and children co-star in avian flu awareness ad

UNICEF Image: Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan bird flu
© The JC Group/Mysak
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan and six children showing off birds made of origami paper, which are essential props in a public-service announcement on avian flu prevention.

By Tani Ruiz

HONG KONG, China, 15 August 2006 – The children could barely contain their excitement. On the eve of filming a new public service announcement on avian influenza with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan, the six girls and boys cast in the spot were planning what they would say to the martial arts icon and world-famous movie star: “My name is… I come from… I like swimming and playing football…”

On the morning of the big day, nerves ran high at the location site – the library in Sha Tin Junior School, Hong Kong. The children had been told that they would be making a spot on an important message about avian flu, also known as bird flu, and that it would be seen by other children around the world.

When Mr. Chan arrived on scene, his young co-stars were timid – for about 60 seconds. Soon, they were running around him, chatting away freely and showing him how to fold coloured origami paper into birds, which are essential props in the PSA.

Mr. Chan, who has a magical way with children that puts them immediately at ease, didn’t bat an eyelid at the animated frolics. The children, ranging from six to nine years of age, all live in Hong Kong but hail from different parts of the globe, including Nigeria, Myanmar, India, Australia and the United States.

Actions to protect children

While laughter prevailed behind the scenes, once the cameras started rolling and the director called out “action,” Mr. Chan and the children focused on delivering their serious message with a sense of purpose, not panic. The PSA’s key point: Birds can pass on avian influenza to people, so it’s important to stay away from sick and dead birds, especially chickens.

It is a message that can’t be conveyed too soon. A highly pathogenic form of avian influenza has been on the rise since mid-2003. Two hundred million birds have been killed directly by the H5N1 virus or culled, and more than 230 human cases, over half of which were fatal, have been reported.

The avian flu PSA – produced by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Government of Japan – aims to show that specific actions can have a strong impact on protecting children from the virus.

It was a long and tiring day for the children, who nevertheless displayed great stamina and patience. At one point, amid signs of fatigue during a post-lunch pause, Mr. Chan literally displayed his magic by whipping out a coin and performing some spellbinding tricks.

Broadcasting in Asia and beyond

“We’re really happy to be doing this with Jackie Chan,” said nine-year-old Labib. “And we feel good that lots of other children will learn something important about bird flu.”

When the director announced a wrap, Mr. Chan surprised the children with presents for all. Though there were no farewell tears, it was a subdued group of children who stayed on a little longer to finish a few last takes.

The PSA in which they appear will be broadcast in Asia and other regions around the world. The sponsors hope that Mr. Chan’s charm and enormous popularity will attract countless children to tune in and take note of the spot’s potentially lifesaving message.




11 August 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Rachel Warden reports on a new public-service announcement for avian flu prevention featuring Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan.
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Watch the full PSA in which Jackie Chan and six children use birds made of origami paper to illustrate the importance of avian flu prevention.
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