The Ebola outbreak currently sweeping across much of West Africa is the worst recorded in history. Recent reports have shown the disease to be ravaging Sierra Leone at a ‘terrifying rate’. Controlling the spread of the disease, then, is a hugely important task and ensuring proper public health education is a necessary first step. That’s why we have awarded a grant of £15,000 to Media Matters for Women in Sierra Leone (MMW). The organisation recently completed a project with local journalists, radio broadcasts and Bluetooth sharing of programmes in Sierra Leone and are now looking to adapt their work to help tackle the Ebola outbreak in the country. To put it simply, the project works like this:
- Three female journalists produce one radio broadcast on an aspect of Ebola every two weeks. Broadcasts are produced and/or translated into local languages.
- The journalists then pass the programme via Bluetooth or WhatsApp to a key contact person in a local town or village. This contact then distributes the programme to other women throughout the town.
- The contact is also responsible for sharing the programme with a second contact in a second town or village. This second contact will then share the programme with her neighbours/friends/families and pass it on to another village. The process continues like this until the programme reaches a fifth (and final) contact, known as an ambassador.
- Ambassadors will be responsible for reporting back to the journalists to confirm that the programme has reached them and all contacts will provide estimates of the number of people who have listened to each programme.
Where possible and safe to do so, listening groups will be convened to listen to the programmes and discuss the issues. Given the nature of Ebola and its spread among populations, however, the programme distribution model also works on a one-to-one basis and so minimises the risk of transmitting the disease. Of course, it goes without saying that countries with Ebola face multiple challenges in dealing with and stemming the epidemic. Public education and advice on how to spot the disease, however, could be useful tools and the work of MMW allows them to reach more remote communities that may have little in the way of reliable, up-to-date information on the disease.