Issue #: 
March 13, 2006


In the context of a global focus on bird flu, or avian influenza (AI), The Communication Initiative is continually updating a list of core messages, examples of communication actions, guidance notes, and thinking points to assist communicators and journalists in addressing prevention and outbreak communication. What follows in this issue of The Drum Beat are just a few examples from the listings; please click here for the growing set of AI resources available on The CI website.

Please send information, particularly examples of programmatic action to address AI prevention, to Deborah Heimann



1. Avian Flu Communication Campaigns - East & Southeast Asia
Drawing on a large number of volunteers and access to remote and vulnerable communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in East and Southeast Asia are developing coordinated communication/education campaigns as part of a broad avian influenza pandemic prevention and contingency plan. This initiative is premised on the conviction that equal access to simple and understandable messages should be available not only to people who can read or write but also to the more vulnerable communities living in the rural areas and workers in the poultry farms. By using interpersonal communication in the form of face-to-face meetings, information and communication technologies, and information, education and communication materials, organisers are working to inform and motivate people to protect themselves in light of a possible bird flu pandemic.
In Bangkok - Grete Budsted; Alan Bradbury; Bekele Geleta
In Beijing - Alistair Henley
In Geneva - Dr. Adelheid Marschang; Charles Evans; Ewa Eriksson

2. Avian Influenza Behaviour Change and Communications Support Activity - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Indonesia
The Academy for Educational Development (AED) is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and a number of international and Southeast Asian regional partners to develop and implement a 12-month behaviour change communications programme. Strategies will include interpersonal communication in the form of farmer education, patient counseling, peer education (farmer-to-farmer, vendor-to-vendor), and informal discussion (vendor-to-consumer, neighbour-to-neighbour). Some of this communication will draw on organisational and community outlets, including workplaces, schools, community- and village-level meetings, and affinity groups (women's unions, farmer groups, health associations). Other approaches will include mass media (national television, radio, and print, and international and web-based communication) and public relations/advocacy (conferences with international experts, and press briefings).
Contact Mark Rasmuson or Susan Zimicki

3. Cambodia Presentation: Regional Meeting on Communication Preparedness for AI
by Try Tan
Presented as part of the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia Avian Flu Communication Meeting held Jan 23-24 2006, this PowerPoint presentation outlines the communication response of 2 Cambodian organisations: The Inter-Ministerial Committee to control Avian Influenza and UNICEF, Cambodia. The Inter-Ministerial Committee's response has included: communication materials produced and disseminated by the Ministry of Agriculture on prevention of bird-to-bird transmission; training of village veterinarians; communication materials produced and disseminated by Ministry of Health (a radio spot, documentary video, and television spot); and printed materials for health workers. UNICEF's response has included: a 1-month hand washing campaign on TV and radio in April 2005; a draft communication strategy; 2 spots on hand washing broadcast on prime-time TV; print materials (which were pre-tested and are being revised); 3 TV spots related to seasonal flu; a booklet on avian and human flu; and radio and TV phone-in programmes. Several next steps are identified.
Contact Try Tan

4. Communication Components: Avian Influenza and Pandemic Planning - New Zealand
In December 2005, the New Zealand Ministry of Health began implementing communication strategies to raise public awareness about bird flu. The national initiative involves using the mass media, information and communication technologies, research, and printed materials to share information and foster pandemic planning on the part of health professionals, businesses, and members of the general public. For example, a 10-day television-based campaign shared key messages; in addition, Radio New Zealand is creating a series of public service announcements (PSAs) advising people on how to prepare for an influenza pandemic. A website is another means of sharing information and stimulating action to prepare for an outbreak. Finally, a toll-free, pre-recorded line gives callers 4 options for further information.
Contact Ministry of Health


Please participate in a poll and discussion!

POLL: Given the rapid spread of Avian Influenza, the practice of hand-shaking should immediately cease.

[For context, please see Drum Beat 337]



- General -

5. Beijing Declaration: At the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Pandemic Influenza
This declaration resulted from a conference convened in Beijing, China on Jan 17-18 2006 under the co-sponsorship of the Government of the People's Republic of China, the European Commission and the World Bank and in co-ordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Participants recognised the need to take further coordinated actions to strengthen disease surveillance and diagnostics, develop much-needed capacity in human and veterinary health systems; and increase public awareness and address social and economic impacts. The declaration outlines commitments that aim to build coordination and collaboration; several communication-related activities will be developed within the scope of these commitments.

6. Bird Flu: The Communication Challenge
by David Dickson
According to this article, lack of information is a significant contributor to human disease and one of the most important benefits of modern medical science has been its contribution to awareness of the way that diseases spread, leading to prevention strategies. However, the author argues that problems occur when government authorities deliberately withhold information from the public. He uses several examples to illustrate how lack of transparent communication can contribute to the impact of outbreaks of infectious diseases. He concludes that science and health journalists have a key role to play in the process of transparent communication in an outbreak situation.

7. Pandemic Flu - Communicating the Risks
The World Health Organization (WHO) hosted a meeting of public health experts in Geneva in Dec 2005 to discuss how governments should communicate the risks posed by avian influenza and the threat of a human flu pandemic to members of the public. In this interview, Dr. Margaret Chan explains that the meeting was called to focus specifically on pandemic communications, as a first step to building a global communication infrastructure to respond to the challenges of a human influenza pandemic.

8. Preparing for a Pandemic

by Heidi Larson
This article discusses the importance of building trust with communities when developing health programmes, exploring particularly how this relates to avian influenza, and shares lessons learned from the campaign to eradicate polio. The article points to Nigeria, where distrust has caused reluctance and boycotts towards vaccinations, as an example of how distrust can hamper health programmes. Populations that are marginalised for political, religious, and socio-economic reasons, or where health service delivery is weak or non-existent, generally will not easily collaborate with a state-driven agenda, unless there is clear understanding of why it matters to them.

9. Responding to the Avian Influenza Pandemic Threat: Recommended Strategic Actions
This document sets out activities that can be undertaken by individual countries, the international community, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to prepare the world for the next influenza pandemic and mitigate its impact once an outbreak occurs. The document also describes issues that can guide policy choices in a situation characterised by both urgency and uncertainty. Recommendations are based on different phases of a pandemic, describing strategic actions that can be undertaken to capitalise on each opportunity to intervene.

10. Avian Influenza & Human Influenza: UNICEF Contributions
by Dr. Gepke Hingst
According to this presentation (part of the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia Avian Flu Communication Meeting held Jan 23-24 2006), UNICEF's role is built on its mandate to protect children, in this case from: loss of protein and income from the loss of birds; possibility of children becoming infected or losing parents to the disease; and potential education disruptions. Prevention activities include using communication for behavioural change - hygiene, cough etiquette, poultry cooking, poultry practices, sick poultry reporting, and promotion of responsible media reporting. UNICEF's response also includes assisting in proper disease surveillance and assessing the nutritional impact that culling has on farmers' families. The presenter suggests that outbreak communication must be open and transparent to build trust between the government and public. Information for action and risk education should focus on what a person can do, and take into consideration participation and ownership.

- South East & East Asia -

11. Backyard Poultry Farmers and Avian Flu in Cambodia: A Baseline Survey
This PowerPoint presentation was created to share the findings of a survey that was completed by the Academy for Educational Development (AED) on behalf of USAID, results from which will be used for behaviour change communication activities designed particularly for rural backyard poultry farmers on avian influenza (AI) in Cambodia. The survey aimed to: constitute a KAP (knowledge/ attitudes/ practices) baseline of the rural backyard poultry farmers on prevention and containment of AI - a set of research tools and parameters which can be repeatedly applied in order to monitor trends; and provide insights into Cambodian farmers' culture, and derive strategies capable of influencing behavioural and cultural patterns to contain the spread of AI in the country. Objectives for future potential communication campaigns are identified. AED is conducting surveys of this nature in 2 other East Asian countries - Laos and Vietnam.

12. The Thais Know How to Do It
by Bryan Walsh
This article discusses the experience of Thailand in dealing with avian influenza, and the lessons that can be learned for other countries should outbreaks occur. The article suggests that community networking and information are vital. Many of Thailand's 250 million chickens live in small household farms scattered throughout the country. Official surveillance could easily miss those birds, but a broad network of community health volunteers has been enlisted to look for possible outbreaks. The volunteers disseminate information about the disease and its symptoms to villagers who normally have little contact with doctors or government officials. In addition, the Thai government has made a special effort to educate the most vulnerable groups: a UNICEF-produced series of comic pamphlets warns rural children - who make up the majority of bird flu cases - to stay away from chickens that appear sick.

13. Vietnam Avian Influenza Communication Campaign: Draft Strategy and Materials
According to the draft communication strategy based on a baseline survey conducted throughout the country and developed by the Academy for Educational Development (AED), many small farmers in rural Vietnam are currently unaware of what they can do to protect themselves and their birds from avian influenza. The communication materials being developed feature 2 children observing the desired behaviours. In doing so, the designers aim to not only capture the message but also to communicate that these steps are not difficult to put into practice. For print materials, illustrations that are bright, colourful, attractive and easy to understand are used. For radio broadcasting, the line delivered by the narrator will rhyme (like a haiku) in the local language while maintaining the key message. AED aims to make the message 'catchy' and allow the listener to easily grasp the message.

14. Viet Nam Avian Influenza/Pandemic Preparedness Communication Workshop Report
This workshop report from the Avian Influenza Information, Education, Communication Working Group explores how and why communication for behaviour change is vital for preventing, preparing, and responding to a potential avian flu pandemic. A key focus of the report is on the power of the media to communicate key messages; to support that approach, Susan Mackay (Program Communication Officer, UNICEF, Bangkok) describes a regional communication initiative to develop Communication Resources Essentials And Tools (CREATE!) for emergencies. These information, education, and communication tools will constitute a toolbox including television and radio spots, posters and leaflets that could be used as a basis for local adaptation in Vietnam.


Public Information

Communication Messages: Avian Influenza: USAID

Communication Messages: Avian Influenza: Various Sources

Facts and Frequently Asked Questions: Avian Influenza

Media Coverage: Avian Influenza

Planning Checklists: Avian Influenza

Situation Updates: Avian Influenza



- Middle East -

15. Turkey Copes With Bird Flu
by Andrea Gerlin
This article outlines some of Turkey's experiences during an outbreak of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, and touches on the role that information can play during such outbreaks. The article states that during an outbreak in mid-Dec 2005, the government "wasted valuable time. There was no public awareness campaign, no precautions were taken along documented migration routes, and provincial vets were not adequately equipped."

16. The Turkish Outbreak and Response
by Erica Kochi
This PowerPoint presentation discusses the avian influenza outbreak in Turkey, providing information about the initial response, lessons learned, and recommendations going forward. The presentation outlines communication actions put in place by both the Government of Turkey and UNICEF, and suggests challenges and problems that these communication actions were, in some cases, unable to overcome. Actions included developing a mass media blanket, creating 24/7 hotlines, providing journalists' training, mobilising imams and village heads to pass messages to communities, and producing leaflets for schoolchildren. Most of the problems with implementing these actions related to issues of mixed messages: cluttered messages in Turkish designed for marginalised (not usually Turkish-speaking) communities; harsh weather that hampered message dissemination; insufficient synchronisation of messages from different UN agencies; and conflicting and confusing messages that promoted misinformation and often led to inaccurate perception of risk.

- Africa -

17. Africa's Polio Efforts Aiding Bird Flu Fight
by David Brown
This article explores how Africa's response to avian influenza may be aided by ongoing campaigns to fight polio. In Nigeria, the polio campaign is being carried out by thousands of vaccinators and surveillance officers equipped with maps that record every house in every village and who are able to move diagnostic specimens from patient to laboratory quickly and safely. According to the article, this extensive public health infrastructure is now mobilising against avian influenza. A 4-day campaign to vaccinate 40 million Nigerian children is being used to deliver a message to thousands of village leaders that people should not touch or eat sick chickens. More elaborate activities may begin later.

18. Zandi's Song Teaching Resources for Avian Influenza
The Academy for Educational Development (AED) has developed an illustrated children's storybook titled "Zandi's Song" and other educational materials for schools in Africa to use to raise awareness among African children about avian influenza and involve them in educating their communities. The 28-page booklet about Zandi, a 15-year-old girl who raises chickens to help pay school fees, as well as an accompanying 12-page teacher's guide, posters, a fact sheet, and bookmarks, are being pre-tested in Kenya. Because of the recent outbreak of avian flu in Nigeria, AED is making advance copies of the materials available online free of charge. The materials, along with a licensing agreement for free use, can be downloaded at the AED website for local duplication and use in country programmes.

19. Kenya Country Presentation: Avian Influenza Emergency Preparedness and Response
This presentation, made at the Avian Influenza (AI) Emergency Preparedness and Response meeting Nov 7-9 2005 in Geneva, Switzerland, outlines the risk of AI in Kenya and highlights the country situation regarding human health, animal health and the constraints on the health system. The presentation highlights Kenya's preparedness and response strategy, which includes the need for communication. According to the presentation, unsynchronised communication systems can hamper preparation for and response to AI.


The Drum Beat seeks to cover the full range of communication for development activities. Inclusion of an item does not imply endorsement or support by The Partners.

Please send material for The Drum Beat to the Editor - Deborah Heimann

To reproduce any portion of The Drum Beat, see our policy.

To subscribe, click here.