This month marks the second anniversary of the world’s most severe outbreak of Ebola in history which is traced to the infection of a two-year-old in Guinea.
The deadly virus, which was first discovered in 1976, broke out in West Africa and has claimed over 11,300 lives since the initial outbreak in December 2013.
In August 2014, Irish Red Cross launched an appeal for funds which led to €65,000 being sent to support IFRC operations across the affected area.
Funds were also used to support public information and health promotion measures to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
This involved Irish Red Cross communications delegate Stephen Ryan working with the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Liberian Red Cross to develop “key messaging” in affected communities, raising peoples’ understanding of the disease and how best to combat it.
As part of the process, location-targeted SMS messages on prevention, including telephone numbers for further information were circulated. Educational drama performances to sensitise local communities to the dangers of Ebola, safe burial and training for local Red Cross members were further elements of the strategy.
An anti-stigma campaign to address discrimination against survivors and families of victims was another important feature.
An evaluation of this work is ongoing in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, assessing how local customs and culture affect the communication outcomes during Ebola outbreaks.