Life-saving information helps reduce spread of Ebola across West Africa

4th October 2014

Children listen as UNICEF and partners visit the crowded Marché Niger in Conakry, Guinea, to continue explaining to families how to they can protect themselves from Ebola.

Children listen as UNICEF and partners visit the crowded Marché Niger in Conakry, Guinea, to let families know how to protect themselves from Ebola. Photo: UNICEF, 2014, Guinea.

Together with Ministries of Health and other partners across seven countries in West Africa, UNICEF is using text messages, radio shows, TV programmes and door-to-door campaigns to disseminate life-saving information in an effort to contain the often-fatal Ebola virus that has already claimed over one hundred lives in Guinea and Liberia.

Most of the people in this part of the world had never heard of Ebola before,” said Dr. Guido Borghese, UNICEF Principal Advisor Child Survival and Development for West and Central Africa. “In this environment, unfounded fears and rumours 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.

In collaboration with partners such as the Red Cross and the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF is stepping up efforts to design culturally-sensitive communication strategies and raise awareness of Ebola, at the grassroots level, across the seven at-risk or affected countries in West Africa.

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 neighbouring Liberia as of 8 April 2014. In total, a growing number of 178 suspected, probable and confirmed cases has been reported in Guinea and Liberia, as well as six suspected cases in Mali.

UNICEF and Partners took to the streets of Conakry, Guinea, to combat the Ebola outbreak with information on how to keep families safe and to prevent the spread we distributed soap and chlorine.

UNICEF and partners take to the streets of Conakry, Guinea, to combat the Ebola outbreak with information on how to keep families safe and to prevent the spread we distributed soap and chlorine. Photo: UNICEF, 2014, Guinea.

In Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau, mass and digital media and inter-personal communication activities are being carried out to prevent people contracting the Ebola virus amongst communities and health workers in mosques, churches, schools, health centres and markets.

Additionally, UNICEF is providing critical prevention supplies, such as soap, chlorine, and gloves to the people in affected communities across West Africa. In the most-affected areas of Guinea including the capital Conakry, UNICEF has distributed 77,400 bottles of liquid chlorine, more than 300,000 bars of soap, 150,000 pairs of gloves, 670 sprayers and 1,650kg of Calcium Hypochlorite (HCH) to medical workers and communities.

UNICEF delivery in Guinea of 12,530 bars of soap, 4,800 bottles of chlorine, and 220,000 gloves to protect 1,700 hospital workers and their families

UNICEF emergency supplies in Guinea to prevent the spread of Ebola including 12,530 bars of soap, 4,800 bottles of chlorine, and 220,000 gloves to protect 1,700 hospital workers and their families. Photo: UNICEF, 2014, Guinea.

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,” adds Borghese. “We are running against time to avoid further spread in West Africa.”

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

UNICEF is urgently appealing for €865,000 for Guinea and almost €937,000 for neighbouring countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Mali, to provide disinfectant products, essential medicines, life-saving supplies and communication support crucially needed to stop Ebola from spreading further across West Africa.