SMS messages are send to communities across the country providing simple information on avoiding the spread of TB. Julien Goldstein.
On Saturday March 24th we commemorate World Tuberculosis Day with groups and organizations all over the world planning activities to raise awareness of the disease which causes many thousands of deaths each year.
According to the World Health Organisation, one-third of the world’s population is currently infected with TB and in Haiti the disease remains a major cause of adult mortality.
“Rates of TB in Haiti are thought to be the highest in the hemisphere,” said John Fleming, Health Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) in Haiti. “Arming people with the information they need to help prevent this deadly disease is crucial.”
To help raise awareness amongst the population the IFRC, in partnership with the Haitian Red Cross, have been reaching out to people up and down the country to provide basic, life saving information such as how to prevent TB and how to decrease the risk of spreading the disease if you have it.
Over 800,000 SMS have been sent which have included messages such as ‘Tuberculosis is a disease which begins with a cough and fever, it can make you feel weak, sweat a lot and have a loss of appetite.’ and ‘If you have TB do not sleep in the same room as other people because you can cough or sneeze and contaminate them during the night.’
In addition, the Red Cross sound truck has also been visiting camps and neighbourhoods with pre-recorded information messages in areas including La Piste, Camp Henfrasa, Champs de Mars and Delmas 19, and Radyo Kwa Wouj (the bi-weekly Red Cross radio show) has scheduled a special broadcast on Friday 23rd with guests from the community health team of the Haitian Red Cross answering questions live on air.
An independent evaluation into the IFRC beneficiary communications programme in Haiti has shown just how critical information is to people in the aftermath of a disaster. Of the thousands of Haitians interviewed, 74 per cent reported receiving information from the Red Cross. Of these, 96 per cent said the information was useful, 83 per cent reported taking action based on it and 73 per cent shared the information with somebody else.
“Communications can play a huge role in enabling people to protect themselves and their families against the threat of infectious diseases such as TB and we know that people respect and value the information they receive from the Red Cross,” John Fleming said.