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September 2007, The Government and Media are Together to Face and Fight Avian Influenza

High officials practise in giving interviews

Bishkek, 25 September 2007 – UNICEF in collaboration with the Kyrgyz Government organizes a symposium where top government spokespersons in Kyrgyzstan will walk through crisis communication preparations for Pandemic Influenza, thanks to a generous contribution from the Government of Japan.

Kyrgyzstan is one of the six countries of the CEE/CIS region which will carry out this training in 2007 following the successful results of the series of six workshops benefiting eight countries last year. High-level officials will discuss priority principles of communication in health emergencies and the need to build trust, avoid panic and empower individuals to take appropriate action to minimize the effects of the pandemic and save lives.

Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (AI) killed children in nearby Turkey and Azerbaijan. While AI is serious in itself, Pandemic Influenza (PI), or a global outbreak of human-to-human transmission, remains a far greater threat to human life. International health authorities are clear with regard to Pandemic Influenza: it is not a question of if, but when. And as millions of people die, panic will grow.

The impact of responsible media relations in such an emergency cannot, therefore, be overestimated. Suitably planned public communication, including the ability to handle both national and international media professionally and transparently, is an essential part of the preparation for a pandemic situation.

As Pandemic Influenza does not respect borders, the issue of prompt, effective communication to populations is not just a matter of national, but of international, interest and concern. Having a well-organized and well-prepared emergency communication mechanism in place is therefore a key component of a government’s response.

“Preparedness and timeliness are watchwords in the fight to contain and confront Avian and Pandemic Influenza,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). “We thank the Government of Japan for making these most important symposia possible.”



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