NOA advocates for aggressive sensitization/awareness campaigns to contain Lassa Fever in Abia

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FIC Report (Abia State) – Following the recently announced outbreak of Lassa Fever in the Avonkwu-Olokoro Community, Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State and in a rapid move to sensitize Abia residents on ways to prevent the spread of the disease which killed a 28 year old man, The Director, National Orientation Agency NOA, Abia state, Mrs. Ngozi Okechukwu has urged residents of the state to always ensure better and clean environment for enhancement of child survival, development and maternal health and well-being of the citizenry.

Mrs. Okechukwu stated this during the Social Mobilization Technical Committee of UNICEF (SOMTEC ) meeting held at the National Orientation Agency headquarters in Umuahia to brainstorm on strategies of engaging an aggressive public awareness on the disease to achieve effective prevention and containment

She stressed that since the year 1999, the Lassa fever incident/outbreak has been witnessed in the state for the fourth time and imperative to rise to the challenge in which SOMTEC was created in order to checkmate the ugly disease from spreading in the state through remedial actions.

Lady Okechukwu listed the UN recommendation of reducing the risk of rats-to-human transmission to include: removing the source of attraction for rats; preventing rats from entering the house; avoiding contact with infected rats; promoting good community hygiene to discourage rodents from entering homes; cooking all animal products thoroughly; avoid using rodents as good source; taking preventive precautions against contact with patient secretions when caring for patients with Lassa fever (as to avoid further transmission of the disease through person-to-person contact.)

Others include: educating people in high risk areas about ways to decrease rodent populations in their homes (as it will aid in the control and prevention of Lassa fever); engage with communities to promote desired health practices and behaviours, including environmental hygiene and food consumption; provide accurate and timely health advice and information on the disease.

In her own words, “we are challenged as SOMTEC members to embark on aggressive sensitization that will bring about positive behavioural changes in the state, Local government, community and ward levels by focusing mainly at the community and house levels.

The purpose of doing this is to adopt acceptable norms and other essential practices, EFPs in the communities and households to ensure better and clean environment for enhancement of child survival, development and maternal health and well-being of the citizenry.

“We can reduce incidences of Lassa fever through a collective effort. Advocacy and continued enlightenment programmes can motivate community leaders into playing their part in sensitizing the community to track and evaluate the institutionalization of the hygienic household practices in the communities.

“We are expected to engage the general public, especially households on interpersonal communication outreaches on Lassa fever prevention and containment. We should mainstream Lassa fever preventive messages into routine community and group meetings.

The NOA State Director ,however, urged community and religious leaders as well as stakeholders in the state to join hands with government in the fight to eliminate Lassa fever in the State.

Lady Okechukwu also seized the opportunity created by the SOMTEC meeting which attracted members from the Ministries of Health, Information, Education, Women Affairs; Agencies like Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, RUWASSA, Adult and Non-formal Education, ANFEA, State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, NOA, State Action Committee on Aids, SACA and other relevant NGOs, to urge the journalists to take up the role as their corporate social responsibility by giving adequate publicity to the outbreak of Lassa fever in the State.