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At a glance: Nigeria

Community dialogue sessions advance bird flu education in Nigeria

UNICEF Image: Nigeria, bird flu awareness
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/ Adeshida
UNICEF consultant Dr. Tajudeen Akerele using an avian influenza awareness poster at an open dialogue on bird flu in Mowe, Nigeria.

By MacArthur S. Hill

OGUN, Nigeria, 26 October 2007 – Adefolu Olusoji is a retired civil servant and a poultry farmer in the sprawling slum of Mowe in Ogun, Nigeria.  He was also among over 30 community members who participated in a recent open dialogue on avian influenza held at the Palace of Baale in south-west Nigeria.

Mr. Olusoji recently lost more than 4,000 chickens to bird flu – leaving him without income and searching for answers.

“When I retired, I felt the business I could do is be a poultry farmer, but I had no idea what to do to avoid diseases such as bird flu. My chickens started dying quickly and in large numbers,” said Mr. Olusoji.

Well attended open forum

At the UNICEF-supported open dialogue in Mowe, the walls of Baale Palace were decorated with photographs and other informational posters on the prevention of avian influenza.
The palace was crowded with representatives from the Poultry Association of Nigeria, poultry traders and transporters, officials, elders and residents of the community. Rauf Kalani, the Chief of Mowe, presided over the session and was supported by representatives of the state’s Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Information.

UNICEF Image: Nigeria, bird flu awareness
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/ Adeshida
UNICEF hopes community meetings like this one in Mowe will help stop the spread of avian influenza.

Participants were given the opportunity to share their questions, concerns or experiences. At the end of the two-hour dialogue, the UNICEF consultant distributed avian influenza materials and encouraged people to share their newly acquired knowledge with other community members.

Tajudeen Taiwo, a butcher, took several posters and placed one on his chest saying, “I will hang this on the wall of my shop so that everybody that comes to buy from me – I can inform them about bird flu.”

Community dialogue sessions throughout Nigeria are helping to advance avian influenza awareness and education.

“The good thing about the community dialogue is that I get immediate answers to my questions and if I forget the answers, I can come back to ask the same question during another session,” said Mr. Olusoji.

Responding to community needs
The lack of adequate information about bird flu has been a major factor contributing to its spread in Nigeria. From just a single avian influenza case in 2006, the disease now affects 97 Local Government Areas, and the threat continues to grow.

With funding from the Japanese Government, UNICEF and Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Information and Communications are supporting the open dialogue sessions in local communities to share information about how to avoid bird flu infection and what to do if there is an outbreak.

Community residents such as Mr. Olusoji are now convinced that accurate information and increased knowledge about the disease are the best means to protect both their livelihoods and their families.
 “We have to learn all we can about bird flu. This is a matter of life and death,” said Mr. Olusoji.



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