The current Ebola outbreak is the worst in history. The rate of infection rises exponentially every day, as does the death toll. Already having easily ravaged some of the most fragile health systems in the world, the disease is now threatening countries around the globe. If current conditions remain, predictions are that 1.4 million people could be infected by early 2015. This crisis will take every solution and approach we can offer – from supporting health infrastructure and health care workers, to providing supplies and preventative care.
We also believe that education and awareness will be a cornerstone of stopping this epidemic. Spreading critical health messages has been extremely challenging in an environment with low health literacy and limited trust in public officials. We must support public health officials and responders in deploying the communications and key health facts that will help to save lives and curb the spread of the epidemic.
So far, efforts in responding to the crisis have been seriously impeded by rumors, allegations of politicization and poor public understanding around Ebola prevention and care. Better, localized education and awareness efforts are needed so that anyone who is at risk of infection knows how to stay safe and help others do so as well. Mass media and communications have a critical role to play in the containment of the crisis.
To this end, we are proud to partner with BBC Media Action to support three programs aimed at increasing public knowledge and awareness, supporting the government in responding to the crisis and instilling safer health practices among local audiences. BBC Media Action is part of the larger BBC family of broadcasting services and is a trusted brand among a range of people around the globe – paramount in building a source of credible information to encourage and accelerate safe health behavior.
The partnership with BBC Media Action will support training workshops and humanitarian programming around Ebola in affected and at-risk countries in West Africa, including:
Lifeline communication workshops – These workshops will be hosted in at-risk countries across West Africa to help better prepare humanitarian responders, local and national media and government officials to communicate to a population threatened with infection. The workshops will focus on how communication can save lives, providing the latest messaging and information on the disease, crafting local communication and creating a dialogue with the public, and outlining how responders can better communicate with each other.
· Radio broadcasts and mini dramatic programming – Our work will support programming of BBC World Service Public Service Announcements (PSA) that share key factual messages on the disease. Our partnership will also support translation of these segments into important regional languages, and the PSAs will be complemented with mini-dramas to engage listeners through storytelling and inspire and inform safer decisions. Research has shown that creating engaging content such as mini-dramas can be an important way to promote healthy behaviors. The shorts will share Ebola messages and provide creative and emotionally compelling content through BBC World Service channels and partner stations.
· Weekly Ebola discussion programming for Liberia – This broadcast program will provide listeners with a platform where they can voice their needs, share experiences and propose their solutions. It will follow the same format as BBC Media Action’s program in Sierra Leone – Kick Ebola na Salone (Kick Ebola out of Sierra Leone).
As part of the comprehensive Tackle Ebola campaign, which has thus far committed $26.5 million to fight the virus, this partnership with BBC Media Action is a unique and urgent approach to addressing the disease. Raising awareness and education in countries that are at-risk of infection helps to stabilize the spread of the disease and prepare the public with the aim of prevention. At this time, it is critical we contain Ebola and prevent further spread of the virus by providing credible information to encourage safe behavior among residents of West Africa.