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News note

UNICEF launches campaign to protect children and women from bird flu in Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, 16 April 2009 – A media campaign launched by UNICEF in Dushanbe today aims to protect children and women in Tajikistan against avian influenza by changing their behaviours related to poultry handling as well as their personal hygiene and cooking.

The campaign is part of broader efforts by UNICEF in partnership with the World Bank, World Health Organisation, and Food and Agriculture Organisation to support the Tajik Government’s National Plan to Prevent and Control Avian Influenza 2006-2010.

“Tajikistan is a high risk country as it is geographically situated in the migratory path of birds,” said Azam Mirzoev, Deputy Minister of Health. “In addition, backyard poultry is an important economic resource for many families living in rural areas. There have been no registered cases of bird flu in Tajikistan yet. In order to prevent such outbreaks in future, it is important to build up public awareness of the risks related to bird flu and ways of tackling these”.

A survey conducted by UNICEF in 2006 has shown that about 84 per cent of poultry farmers in Tajikistan caged their birds around the house, and only 49 per cent washed their hands after dealing with poultry and eggs, or cleaning cages. If left unchecked, this behaviour poses the potential risk of spreading bird flu in the country. The three-month campaign will focus on disseminating information about simple preventive practices that are effective against bird flu through nationwide media outlets and community-based events.

“Women and children are most exposed to the risk of bird flu because they are the ones who take care of poultry and cook it,” said UNICEF Country Representative in Tajikistan Hongwei Gao. “They are the primary audience of this media campaign and it is critical that they learn about safer ways of handling and cooking poultry, and about the importance of personal hygiene in avoiding avian influenza and other diseases”.

As part of the media campaign, nationwide and regional television and radio channels will broadcast public service announcements highlighting the need to wash hands with soap after dealing with poultry or eggs, cook chicken properly and report dead birds to veterinary service or local authorities. In addition, UNICEF will integrate these messages in popular television and radio programmes. At the local level, UNICEF partners will hold community meetings and events with local leaders and the general public to raise their awareness of simple ways to prevent the risk of contracting the virus. Numerous billboards, posters and leaflets will also spread this information in hospitals, schools and public institutions throughout the country.

“Even if there has been no outbreak of avian influenza in Tajikistan, people have to be well-informed to avoid the infection,” said Representative Hongwei Gao. “Prevention is always better that reaction, especially when it is about risks to children and women’s lives”.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments

For further information, please contact:
Alexander Sodiqov, UNICEF Tajikistan Communication Officer, Tel.: +992 (48) 701 14 89, 701 14 90, Email: asodiqov@unicef.org




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