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Using video to engage children in the fight against cholera in Cameroon
06 October 2014
Plan staff discovered how effective video can be in engaging girls and boys, men and women to tackle diseases like cholera.
Where there is poor access to clean water and sanitation, cholera can spread through communities like wildfire. Lack of toilets and poor management of sewage leads to the contamination of water sources, spreading the disease. Changes in hygiene and sanitation behaviour are required to stop the disease in its tracks, and messages must reach every member in society, with even the smallest child engaged as an agent for change. Plan staff discovered how effective video can be in engaging girls and boys, men and women to tackle diseases like cholera.
The first case of cholera was detected in the Far North region of Cameroon on 18 March 2014. By 29 July, there were 1,351 cases and 64 deaths in the region, a mortality rate of 4.7%.
The Mayo-Tsanaga Division was particularly affected, including the districts of Koza, Mokolo, Hina, Mogodé, Bourha and Roua. Cholera spread in these six health districts due to poor hygiene and sanitation practices, lack of health, sanitation and water infrastructure, and lack of clean drinking water.
Plan Cameroon’s intervention aimed to change hygiene and sanitation practices in at risk communities, in order to prevent the disease from spreading. Several different ways of communicating were used, to overcome challenges such as remote village locations, poor radio reception, illiterate populations, and the needs of children for specially targeted messages to ensure that they understand and remember the information. Community health workers and community volunteers travelled door-to door distributing posters, leaflets, and using images and audio speakers to communicate key messages on cholera prevention. Messages were also spread on mass media, including radio and TV.
One of the most engaging methods of capturing the attention of the community was the broadcasting of films communicating cholera prevention messages. The short films explained what cholera is, how it is transmitted and how to avoid it. Each broadcast was followed by question and answer sessions, helping to reinforce the messages and ensure that everyone understood. Questions from the community were answered by the Plan staff showing the film, such as low cost means of disinfecting water for drinking. For example, community health workers were able to explain that where aquatabs were not available or too expensive, water could be purified by adding a certain dosage of chlorine bleach per litre of water. In total, screenings were conducted in 19 villages, and around 130 people attended each screening.
Parents and elders reported that the videos had a large impact on the behaviour of children, in particular. In a community in Mogodé district, Zra (32 years old) explained to Plan’s staff that “since the films were shown in the village, children do not forget to wash their hands every time they want to eat”. Adults were particularly interested in the information explained in the video regarding the disinfection of water using bleach or aquatabs, and the dosage and preparation of rehydration solutions for the treatment of cholera. The communities themselves joined in to increase the impact of the video: those who could understand the French language video volunteered to translate it into the local languages to ensure that all could understand.
The film screenings also provided an opportunity to gather feedback and information from the beneficiaries. Communities took the chance to ask that they be informed further in advance regarding the schedule for film screening, so that they could ensure that as many people as possible could attend.