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Malawi: Launches Communications Campaign on Avian Flu

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  • Malawi: Launches Communications Campaign on Avian Flu

    Malawi, with the help of USAID, Launches Communications Campaign on Avian Flu Avian Influenza (AI) is increasingly being viewed as a significant threat by public health officials around the world. Malawi has been lucky and, at the time of writing, no cases of AI have been detected here. Nonetheless, the Government of Malawi, along with USAID, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and other development partners decided to act now to prevent an uncontrollable outbreak of AI in Malawi. Population Services International/Malawi (PSI/Malawi) is now ready to provide 50,000 poster to locations in Malawi that are most threatened by AI. All 26 districts in Malawi will receive these posters along with leaflets as well as hear radio spots between September 2006 and March 2007.
    The Government of Malawi and PSI/Malawi identified key target groups, which included the General Population, Poultry Keepers, Border Populations, and Border Officials. Then they identified key messages for each target group through a process that encouraged input from many different stakeholders.
    In September 2006, PSI/Malawi received final approval from the Government of Malawi to produce the AI communications materials. These will be distributed by the Government of Malawi in phases, beginning with border areas in order to sensitize and educate people on the dangers of AI and how to prevent it from entering the country in the first place. The materials have been shared with other agencies in the region, and so far the campaign has received rave reviews, such as the following comment from a partner organization in Madagascar ‘they are probably some of the most expressive drawings I have seen on the topic so far, congratulations for this beautiful job you did’.

    These communications materials will form a ready resource of approved Government of Malawi public awareness AI communication materials and can be reproduced using earmarked funding at any time.

    <table border="0" width="100%"><tbody><tr align="left" valign="top"><td colspan="5" class="header">USAID and FAO Donate Avian Flu Equipment to Malawi
    </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="27%"></td> <td colspan="4" rowspan="4" align="left" valign="top" width="73%">In an effort to strengthen preparedness and ensure adequate capacity for handling Avian Flu the Government of Malawi has established three Rapid Response Teams (RRTs), one from each region, to respond to reports of suspected Avian Flu outbreaks in the country. The RRTs are comprised of staff from the Ministries of Agriculture and Health and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. On September 13, 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is handing over Rapid Response Team kits to the Government of Malawi to be used by RRTs in the event of suspected outbreaks of Avian Flu. The kits include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), disinfectant sprayers, quick test kits, and communications equipment for use by RRT members. The equipment was procured with both USAID and FAO global funding.
    In addition to equipment, USAID recently supported RRT training, which was facilitated by FAO and the National Avian Influenza Technical Committee (NAITC). The training was aimed at building national Avian Flu surveillance and response capacity by imparting to RRT members the knowledge and skills needed to quickly respond to reports of suspected Avian Flu outbreaks, including verifying the disease and containing it.
    During the training, a suspected outbreak was reported at a commercial farm in Zomba District where several chickens (layers) had died suddenly. An RRT, comprised of two Veterinary Officers and three Senior Laboratory Technicians, was deployed to carry out a Rapid H5 AIV Antigen Test and the results indicated that the poultry did not have Avian Flu but that they died of other causes.
    This successful RRT deployment shows the importance of continuing to develop and maintain the Government of Malawi’s capacity to successfully deal with Avian Flu. USAID and FAO have pledged their continued technical, material and financial support in this respect.
    "In the beginning of change, the patriot is a scarce man (or woman, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for it then costs nothing to be a patriot."- Mark TwainReason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. -Thomas Paine