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Battle against Ebola being waged at community level: UNICEF

Battle against Ebola being waged at community level: UNICEF

NEW YORK/DAKAR, 13 November 2014 – UNICEF said today the battle against Ebola must be waged, and will be won, at the heart of the community.

 “Communities are at the forefront of the response,” said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF’s Global Ebola Emergency Coordinator. “Data from various sources suggest that the progress we are seeing in parts of Liberia, such as Lofa County and Monrovia, can be attributed to communities adopting better practices like safe burials and early isolation and care.”

UNICEF is already supporting critical community-based initiatives designed to strengthen the response to the Ebola outbreak at the most local level.

The organization is helping the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone build, staff and equip Community Care Centres — small structures where patients with Ebola symptoms are accommodated within their communities to break the cycle of transmission and where they will receive care by trained community health workers.

In Sierra Leone, the first 10 Community Care Centres are due to be completed this week and that number is expected to quadruple by the end of the month.

In Liberia, rapid response teams are being deployed to “hotspots” across the country to contain new outbreaks in the most remote communities as they are reported. These rapid response teams, which have visited six hotspots in the past two weeks, also identify and decide on the immediate response measures necessary to isolate and treat those who have been affected and to prevent further transmission.

In countries where myths, misconceptions and misinformation have put a serious strain on the Ebola response, the key to success is to promote key behaviours that will reduce the chance of transmission at the grassroots level.

Programmes implemented by local partners, including youth groups, teachers and faith leaders, are helping educate the public on how to prevent Ebola transmission and encouraging them to seek immediate medical care in case they experience symptoms.

Local leadership is pivotal in the fight against the virus. In Guinea’s Nzérékoré region, for example, close to the original epicenter of the outbreak, UNICEF and its partners are working with traditional healers, public transport drivers, health workers, young leaders and politicians in the fight against the disease. In Liberia, nearly 5,000 teachers have been trained to undertake door-to-door awareness activities.

In Sierra Leone, street-to-street announcements and home visits are being conducted in hotspot areas. A house-to-house campaign led by the Government back in September reached over one million homes with life-saving messages.

A survey of knowledge, attitudes and practices related to Ebola in Sierra Leone shows high knowledge about the disease, including how it is transmitted. About 90 per cent of respondents are aware that contact with blood and bodily fluids must be avoided to prevent transmission. Efforts are now focused on translating that knowledge into behavior change.

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