Responding to animal disease outbreaks with risk communication in Myanmar

Responding to animal disease outbreaks with risk communication in Myanmar

30/11/2018

During an animal disease outbreak, consumers may be in danger of consuming infectious goods. However untrue unscientific rumours may arise. Consequently, farmers may fail to take appropriate action to prevent or control disease. Consumers often behave irrationally due to the false information broadcasted, fear and panic. This can cause demand shortages, negative effects on farmer livelihoods and lost opportunities to control the disease properly. Eventually, the economy may be affected by market shock, and the public concern can rise needlessly. In order to prevent and respond to animal disease outbreaks with minimal social and economic losses, it is important to have an effective risk communication strategy.

Under the Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT-2) programme, FAO's Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Disease (ECTAD) together with Risk Communication experts from the Warning Project, organized a workshop on risk communication last month. The government officers, local authorities and academic professionals from the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD), Department of Public Health (DOPH), University of Veterinary Science (UVS), Myanmar Livestock Federation (MLF) and Nay Pyi Taw Development Committee (NDC) participated. The workshop facilitated LBVD in developing their national risk communication strategy.

Creating risk communication strategy

According to the Myanmar National Risk Communication Strategy for Public Health Emergencies, risk communication is the act of information exchange between people who are at risk and is an integral part of any emergency response. During this workshop, the group simulation exercises encouraged participants to share their experiences and walk them through the process of strategic communication between the stakeholders. “The exercises were practical. We have been working on diverse aspects of risk communication scatteredly, and it is good for us to put them together in one bundle.” Dr. Min Thein Maw, Director of Veterinary Medicine and Disease Control Division LBVD.

The objective of this workshop is for the participants to understand the scope of risk communication and how it can be developed for the different communities pre and post animal disease outbreak.

"What I like the most about this workshop is that we realize there is a difference between the information and the message. Through the individual and group exercises during the workshop, we got to know the way of sharing messages effectively and accurately. In addition, we got to learn about the important Dos and Don'ts in communicating with different audiences including the communities and media people. This workshop taught us how to conduct our duties more systematically, precisely and effectively." Dr May Win Shwe, District Officer, LBVD, Yangon Region.

Multi-sectoral coordination

Risk communication will also help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of multi-sectoral collaboration. “This workshop is the beginning for us to address animal disease outbreaks effectively. The knowledge shared during the sessions are the seeds for future development. Follow-up activities are essential as different disease behave differently. We are working closely together with FAO on this matter.” Dr. Min Thein Maw, Director of Veterinary Medicine and Disease Control Division, Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department.

This project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through FAO ECTAD in their mission  to increase the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises through multi-sectoral coordination for effective management and control.