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As schools reopen in Guinea, UNICEF helps efforts to reduce Ebola transmission risk

2015-01-20

Photos and video from Ebola-affected countries can be downloaded from: http://uni.cf/1xZAb39

DAKAR/NEW YORK/GENEVA, 20 January 2015 – As schools reopen in Guinea, UNICEF and partners are helping reduce as much as possible the risk of Ebola transmission, training teachers to implement safety measures such as daily temperature screening, and supplying thermometers and handwashing kits for schools.

“The closure of schools has had a profound impact in a region with some of the lowest educational indicators in the world, and among children whose world has been turned upside down by Ebola,” said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF’s Global Emergency Coordinator for Ebola. “As schools reopen, it is critical that they be a protective environment where the risk of transmission of Ebola is reduced to a minimum, and knowledge contributes to halting the spread of the virus.”

Because of Ebola, public schools in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone remained closed after the July-August break, depriving 5 million children of months of school education.

Public schools in Guinea officially reopened this week. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, UNICEF is also working with governments and communities to prepare for the eventual school reopening.

Safety protocols developed by the ministries of education, together with UNICEF and partners, include screening at the school entrance, and not allowing on the premises anyone who has a fever over 38° C, who had contact with a patient or a victim of Ebola in the past 21 days or who has three symptoms of Ebola – such as fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. The protocols also spell out how to handle a suspected case through a referral system with the nearest health clinic.

Teachers have an important role to play in spreading information while schools are closed, and in supporting their safety when they reopen. UNICEF trained thousands of teachers to participate in social mobilization campaigns to help equip children, parents, teachers and other community members with the knowledge they need to protect themselves from Ebola and prevent further transmission of the virus.

UNICEF and partners have also has provided schools with thousands of hygiene kits, which include soap and buckets. And because schools in the affected countrıes often do not have access to safe water, UNICEF is helping mobilize parents and other community members to deliver water to schools.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, UNICEF is supporting authorities in expanding radio education programmes so that children don’t miss out entirely on their education as schools remain closed. To address the lack of radios and unreliable electricity, UNICEF has ordered the first 17,000 of 50,000 solar-powered radios that will be distributed to the most vulnerable households, and is working with education partners to distribute pre-recorded lessons in the hardest to reach areas.

Even after schools reopen, the radio programmes - which include subjects such as mathematics, social studies and science - will continue to play an important educational role, including in efforts to reach out-of-school children. Prior to the crisis, school attendance in primary education was 58 per cent in in Guinea, 34 per cent in Liberia and 74 per cent in Sierra Leone.

Note to editors:

How UNICEF, together with partners, is helping

Guinea

  • 48,615 hygiene kits containing buckets and soap were distributed for the more than 12,000 schools of all levels for use by 2.7 million children. UNICEF contributed 53 per cent of the kits.
  • The Ebola National Coordination body provided chlorine to all school for handwashing purposes
  • The Ministry of Education procured 20,500 thermometers to all schools.
  • Over 80,650 teachers were trained on the safe opening of schools protocols.
  • Key messages were developed by the Parents and Teachers Associations, and will be communicated widely with families

Liberia:

  • UNICEF is supporting the government for the eventual reopening of 5,181 schools. About 15,000 teachers will be trained on safety protocols.
  • Hygiene kits have been ordered for distribution in all 5,181 schools. The kits include six months’ worth of materials such as buckets, gloves, chlorine, soap, rain boots, cloths, sprayers and water bottles.
  • 5,000 infrared thermometers will be distributed to schools.

Sierra Leone:

  • UNICEF is supporting the government for the eventual reopening of 8,100 schools.
  • UNICEF and partners are planning for the supply of hygiene kits and thermometers when schools reopen.

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For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.