UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) today approved a total of US$ 58,573 to support projects aimed at building the communication capacities of Ebola affected countries in the Mano River Region.
The proposals, submitted by proponents in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, are in line with UNESCO's Strategic Response to Ebola, which underlines the need to strengthen communication systems in the above countries.
The funds will be used to enhance community radio infrastructure, issue reporting guidelines, train investigative journalists and mobilize women's participation and engagement in media.
Guy Berger, secretary to the IPDC Secretariat and director of the Freedom of Expression and Media Development Division at UNESCO, reminded the eight-country Bureau members chaired by Albana Shala (Netherlands) that media development interventions introduced during the Ebola outbreak must be sustained through further capacity building.
"If there is already a strong, pluralistic, free and independent media system in a country, then that counts as good preparedness to deal with disaster," he emphasized.
In reinforcing the point, Albana Shala, IPDC Chairperson, argued that "the three countries, which have experienced war and conflict, have not received much support from the IPDC in the past thirty years. They merit our attention now more than ever."
The Bureau members agreed that without information, one inadvertently faces the risk of Ebola contamination in the Mano River Region.
Recent efforts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone demonstrate commitment to achieving zero status of Ebola cases in 2015 and to strengthening public institutions to contain the disease and its impact. Attention to the media landscape and its development in all three countries is of paramount importance if the existing media infrastructure is to continue playing a fundamental and long-lasting public service role.
During the past week, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 79 new Ebola cases including 1 in Liberia. Despite large-scale information and education campaigns, many communities are still resistant to the public health messages put out by authorities and international organizations, according to the non-governmental organization, Doctors Without Borders.