UNICEF Helps Reduce Spread of Ebola across West Africa through Information Campaigns

Together with Ministries of Health and other partners across seven at-risk or affected countries in West Africa, UNICEF is using various means of communication—text messaging through mobile phones, radio shows, TV programs and door-to-door campaigns—to disseminate life-saving information in an effort to contain the often-fatal Ebola virus.

NEW YORK (April 10, 2014)Together with Ministries of Health and other partners across seven at-risk or affected countries in West Africa, UNICEF is using various means of communication—text messaging through mobile phones, radio shows, TV programs and door-to-door campaigns—to disseminate life-saving information in an effort to contain the often-fatal Ebola virus. 

“Most of the people in this part of the world had never heard of Ebola before,” said Dr. Guido Borghese, UNICEF’s Principal Advisor for Child Survival and Development in West and Central Africa. “In this environment, unfounded fears and rumors spread quickly and widely. More than ever, it is crucial that families have both the means and the right information to protect themselves and prevent dangerous misunderstandings.”  

UNICEF is working closely with partners to design culturally-sensitive communications strategies and raise awareness of Ebola among communities and health workers in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau.  

“Radio dramas, print materials, TV shows, and even voice messages are automatically sent to mobile phones—we use every appropriate means of communication to reach more people, spread the word in local languages and save lives,” said Borghese. “We are running against time to avoid further spread in West Africa.” 

In addition, UNICEF is providing critical prevention supplies—such as soap, chlorine, and gloves—to health authorities and the people in affected communities across West Africa. UNICEF is also supplying the local and national health authorities in Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Mali with medical equipment, including tents to set up isolation units, and hygiene kits to help contain and prevent Ebola.

In the most-affected areas of Guinea, for example, UNICEF has distributed 77,400 bottles of liquid chlorine, more than 300,000 bars of soap and150,000 pairs of gloves  to medical workers and communities. In Liberia, UNICEF has provided cholera kits, large tents to establish isolation units, 15,360 bars of soap, 725 kg of chlorine and other disinfectant products and life-saving supplies. In Cote d'Ivoire, in addition to hygiene equipment, UNICEF has supported health districts in the western region of Man with tents that have been set up as isolation centers. 

West Africa is witnessing its first major outbreak of Ebola, which has no vaccine and no cure. The disease has already claimed 111 lives in Guinea and neighboring Liberia as of April 8. A growing number of suspected, probable and confirmed cases have also been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Mali. 

“Ebola kills people; but more lives are put at risk because of lack of information or misinformation though rumors,” said Borghese. “There is no existing vaccine against Ebola. Bringing patients with suspected symptoms to health centers as soon as possible increases their chances of survival and prevents other people from getting infected.” 

UNICEF is urgently appealing for $1.2 million for Guinea and nearly $1.3 million for neighboring countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Mali, to provide disinfectant products, essential medicines, life-saving supplies and communication support needed to stop Ebola from spreading further across West Africa. 

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About UNICEF
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.  

For additional information, please contact:

Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org