Via ReliefWeb, a July 12 UNICEF report: Misconceptions fuel Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Excerpt and then a comment:
As the Ebola-related death toll rises above 500 in West Africa, UNICEF and its partners are expanding their activities across the region to halt the spread of the disease by combating rumours, fears and misconceptions.
“Rumours and denial are fueling the spread of Ebola and putting even more lives at risk,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Some people still deny that the disease is real. Others believe that it doesn’t have to be treated.”
With more than 850 cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the World Health Organization (WHO), this first-ever Ebola outbreak in West Africa has become a major regional threat, unprecedented in duration and in scale. Widespread misconception, resistance, denial and occasional hostility in some communities are considerably complicating the humanitarian response to contain the outbreak.
“The response goes beyond medical care,” Fontaine said. “If we are to break the chain of Ebola transmission, it is crucial to combat the fear surrounding it and earn the trust of communities. We have to knock on every door, visit every market and spread the word in every church and every mosque. To do so, we urgently need more people, more funds, more partners.”
Last week in Accra, WHO convened governments from across West Africa, non-governmental organizations, regional inter-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies to agree on a set of joint priority actions for the first time since the beginning of the Ebola crisis.
In response, UNICEF is stepping up its efforts across seven countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali and Gambia – to prevent further spread of the virus, through mobile messaging and ongoing TV, radio and print mass traditional and non-traditional communication campaigns. Since the outbreak was declared, UNICEF and its partners have reached at least 5.5 million people in West Africa.
The longer the outbreak continues, the more intense the need for good health communication. It's reminded us that not everyone in the world is literate, educated, and on Twitter. In fact, for hundreds of millions of people around the world, the last 150 years or so have been deeply irrelevant to their daily lives. Some of them may watch the 2014 World Cup, but otherwise the 21st century just doesn't apply.