Many hundreds of thousands of children die each year because their parents and others lack basic health information and skills. Yet, many millions of children in developing countries are a fantastic resource to help their families and community stay healthy. Like children everywhere, they are competent and enthusiastic. They can learn, collect and share basic health ideas and skills to keep healthy themselves and help others.
We see many pictures of sick children waiting to die. We need to see pictures of healthy children spreading life-saving information, helping to protect themselves and others at a time of great risk, like the Ebola outbreak.
Adults can support children with accurate information, and children can support their community with accurate information. This is not guesswork, and this message is about sharing life-saving information. Children for Health helps children to understand what is going so they can help to protect themselves and others where they can.
At a time when lives are at risk and in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Children for Health has drafted a list of messages school age children can learn and share with other children.
Children need to know that people with Ebola need comforting words, but not to be touched or hugged. They also need to know that when a person has recovered from Ebola and the health workers have allowed them back to their families it is safe to treat them normally. Health workers will not allow people back to the family unless they have fully recovered and their tests show no signs of Ebola.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a public health emergency and because of the scale of the outbreak:
- Children will hear adults speaking about it, they may hear about it on the radio, TV in newspapers or other media.
- Children are naturally curious
- Children may become afraid about what they hear
- Children can be given a positive role as health ambassadors
Children look to older children, parents and teachers for knowledge – adults can support children with accurate information.
Here is a fact sheet from the Centre of Disease Control. BUT Much of the official information and fact sheets are not prepared with children in mind. Children need to understand what is going on and help to protect themselves and others where they can. This is important:
- They are vulnerable and need to protect themselves; and
- They play an important part in sharing accurate information with other children in their families and communities.
Perhaps the most important message for children to learn and share is to take extra care to practice good hygiene. Children can also help other children and especially younger children to do the same.
It is also important that children know not to touch people with symptoms that might be Ebola: even their close family. Also they need to know they must not touch any bedding, blankets or anything that could have been in contact with someone who has Ebola. This is difficult for children to do, especially younger children if one of their parents or siblings is infected. If older children know about Ebola and know what to do and why, they can help to keep young children away from danger and they can sing to them, play and comfort them.
We have prepared these messages on Ebola for programmes working with children to adapt and translate into the local language that is spoken by most children, and they should use the local terms for words like ‘pee’ and ‘poo’. Tell us your 10 ‘top’ messages. Which do you or the children think are the most important messages to learn and share? Are there others we have missed? Are any messages below ones you would not use with children? Please let us know.
20 Messages on Ebola for Children to Learn and Share
- Ebola is a disease that makes people very ill and sometimes die.
- Ebola is caused by a virus you can’t see which stops a person’s body working properly.
- The Ebola virus lives inside fluids of an infected person (like blood, spit, sweat, pee, poo and vomit)
- There are many signs of Ebola: headache, fever, pains in the stomach and muscles, diarrhoea & vomiting.
- Ebola spreads when someone who is well touches fluids from a person who has Ebola.
- Someone can have the Ebola virus in their body for three weeks before they start to feel ill.
- It is only when a person starts to feel ill that they can spread Ebola to someone else.
- Do not touch people who are is showing signs of illness and anything they have touched or used.
- Help to keep young children away from people showing signs of Ebola.
- Wash your hands with soap often and always after having a pee or poo.
- When someone has the signs of Ebola they need to go to a clinic for testing as soon as possible.
- At the clinic, health workers take a small amount of blood from the sick person to look for signs of Ebola in the blood.
- Health workers looking after people with Ebola wear special suits, masks and gloves so that they do not catch Ebola.
- Health workers are brave, kind people trying to stop Ebola spreading to others and making them sick.
- At the moment (December 2014), there is no medicine to cure people with Ebola but scientists are working hard to create medicine and a vaccine.
- When someone dies from Ebola the body has a lot of the Ebola virus in it so its put carefully into a bag and taken for burial.
- When someone gets well from Ebola and comes home they cannot spread Ebola.
- Someone who has got better from Ebola is safe to touch and needs love and friendship.
- If relatives are sick they need comforting words but do not touch them until you know they do not have Ebola.
- Young children do not understand Ebola. Help protect and comfort them.
If you work with children, make and use an ‘Opportunities Chart‘ to get the children discussing ideas about how they see the problem and what THEY think children can do. Of course their safety and protection is the most important consideration.
Children can tie a piece of fabric or string to a stick each time they learn and share an Ebola message. Look at our Rainbow Stick idea here.
We hope you find these messages and activities useful and we welcome your feedback, stories and experiences. When we hear of a good game or story that will help children in affected areas we will put this on our blog – so please keep in touch!