Effective communication informs and empowers people to respond appropriately to a crisis.The rapidly spreading outbreaks of avian influenza among wild and domestic birds and the rare but increasing cases of bird flu among people are alarming.If the H5N1 virus changes into a human strain, it would make it possible for person-to-person transmission and trigger a human flu pandemic. The world must prepare for such a pandemic.
People are becoming infected because they do not know how to protect themselves and how to avoid risky behaviour.The importance of public information support to induce behaviour change and reduce risks of ill-health in animals and humans is increasingly recognized in both national and international avian and human influenza programmes. WHO has issued guidelines for outbreak communication with a focus on public information and media relations.In addition, WHO, FAO and UNICEF have developed consensus on a key set of behavioural outcomes and measurement indicators to guide communication for behaviour change for preventing bird-to-bird, bird-to-animal, and bird to human transmission at community level.
At country level, UNICEF, as well as other organizations, are supporting governments and partners to develop behaviour change strategies and prototype materials for communication at household level, with a specific focus on back-yard poultry farmers, community influencers and children.These strategies and materials - based on technical recommendations of WHO and FAO/OIE - are being adapted and used across different regions.UNHCR will ensure that awareness messages are communicated to refugees.WFP has started to use its on-going programmes to increase awareness of the avian and pandemic threats and may expand this activity in line with national policies and capacities.UNICEF's activities, funded by the government of Japan, are part of a coherent UN system response.Guided by the technical agencies for animal and human health — FAO, WHO, and the UN System Influenza Coordinator (UNSIC), UNICEF is focusing on communication and other supportive measures that inform, educate and enable families and communities to protect themselves from illness and death caused by bird flu or its consequences. Source: UNICEF