Regional Communication Framework for Avian Flu to be Strengthened


The regional communication framework for avian and human pandemic influenza will be strengthened with the development of a media guide and associated training for journalists.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative for the Eastern Caribbean, Tom Olsen, has informed that the media guide is being developed jointly by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Mr. Olsen, who was addressing the opening of a UNICEF-sponsored workshop on ‘Communication for preparedness and response to avian and human pandemic influenza’ held recently in Barbados, said that the move is necessary “because we recognize that the media can play a key role in mitigating the spread of avian influenza. They need to know how to ask the right questions and how to help open channels of communications between themselves and sources of information on avian flu, whether this be government officials or even United Nations agencies such as PAHO and FAO.”
Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Caribbean, Stein Hansen, who was also present, said the hosting of the workshop formed part of efforts by the UN and its agencies, to communicate the threats and risks of avian influenza and a possible human pandemic.
“As media professionals, I urge you to recognize that how you communicate risk information to the public is important. It is a skill and must be done in a responsible manner as emergency focal points,” he informed.
The two-day workshop for journalists was the third of its kind by and the first to be held in the Caribbean. The media guide will contain inputs and suggestions from participants in the workshops and will be translated into a number of languages.
As of May 2007, there have been 307 cases of humans being infected with avian flu, with 186 deaths. To date there have been no cases of avian flu in the Caribbean.

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