Community engagement to be intensified in the fight against Ebola in West Africa
DAKAR, Sénégal, September 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Gathered at a Forum on Ebola communication and prevention convened in Dakar by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, representatives from global, regional and community media, civil societies and National Red Cross Societies from West Africa, committed to scale up community engagement and social mobilization as top priorities in all prevention and epidemic control plans related to the outbreak currently crippling parts of West Africa.
Recalling that the size and scope of the outbreak are unprecedented, the Declaration of Commitments adopted by the Forum stresses that 'communities are fearful and worried that the health system has not been able to contain the disease. Rumours, myths, lack of information and misinformation about Ebola are fuelling anxiety and confusion at all levels, hindering an effective response'.
Forum participants also emphasized that socio-cultural practices and beliefs, including burial practices, as well as the interconnectedness of families within and between affected countries facilitate the spread of the outbreak.
'Rising to the challenge requires immediate response and preventive measures that are massive and coordinated' stated participants, who committed to mitigating the effects of the outbreak, including its social and economic impact, through coordinated information dissemination, targeted communications and advocacy and effective social mobilization'.
The call and commitment for providing accurate, timely and effective information goes beyond the affected or at-risk country plans, and should be extended to regional and global media platforms. Fear or panic generated by the disease are limiting factors in common mobilization efforts to help national and regional authorities stop the outbreak at the earliest, and further prevent its propagation.
'We commit to monitor and follow up on these commitments for collective accountability through strengthened coordination efforts at all levels' concluded the Declaration.