Afghanistan: UNICEF’s bird flu public information campaign gains pace

Afghanistan: UNICEF’s bird flu public information campaign gains pace

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With the deadly avian influenza virus found in four provinces in Afghanistan, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is moving forward with the nationwide public information campaign to raise awareness about measures to protect human health and contain any possible outbreak.

Cases of the deadly H5N1 strain have been detected in Kapisa, Kabul, Logar and Nangahar, UN spokesman Adrian Edwards told a press briefing in Kabul.

The Government has identified 20 priority provinces for immediate community-based communication activities, including seven – Kabul, Kapisa, Parwan, Wardak, Logar, Nangarhar and Laghman – considered highest risk. Those will receive a full range of interpersonal communication materials this week, including flip charts, posters and leaflets, according to Mr. Edwards.

“The interpersonal communication approach is considered vital to ensuring that the preventative messages on avian influenza are fully understood,” he said.

National television and radio are continuing regular information broadcasts, Mr. Edwards added. “In the coming weeks, the next phase of the communication strategy will get under way, reaching the remaining 14 provinces, involving private sector media, and looking at more vehicles for community outreach,” he said.

Globally, more than 200 million domestic birds have died from the virus or through culling in the current outbreak that began over two years ago. There have been 192 human cases, 109 of them fatal, ascribed to contact with infected birds, but experts fear H5N1 could mutate, gaining the ability to pass from person to person and in a worst case scenario unleashing a deadly human pandemic.