MCD Inc.


November 11, 2017

Working with Communities to Prevent Zika: International Dengue Prevention Day

Students are trained on ELITA actions to prevent Zika.

By: Angie Montes - BCC Officer, MCDI El Salvador

On "International Dengue Prevention Day", better known as "Day D", the ZICORE/MCDI team in El Salvador joined national efforts to promote elimination of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the same vector that is responsible for spreading the Zika virus. Working with community members of the five ZICORE intervention municipalities, the team promoted key Zika messages such as vector control activities, ELITA (eliminate or "eliminar", clean or "limpiar" and cover or "tapar"), personal protection, and general awareness.

"Day D" is an annual event held on August 26th, during which organizations (mostly governmental) are called to action, but this year the celebration felt different as it addressed not only Dengue and Chikungunya, but a theme that is front and center of the public health discussion - the Zika virus. In preparation for this event ZICORE staff participated in the development of local awareness activities and the distribution of educational. On August 26th, pregnant women and students were invited to participate in special informational sessions, and communities were equipped with cleaning kits that they could use to help eliminate mosquito breeding sites. This kit was provided to community leaders, school authorities and health units coordinators along with a technical talk about Zika, in order for them to mobilize their people and be ready for the day.

Doctor Quintanilla, who coordinates a health unit in the Department of Chalatenango (in northern El Salvador) told us about his experience:

"In this basic health unit, the number of staff is limited, and many activities do not have the same impact for people or can't be as developed as we want, but projects such as ZICORE generate interest among members of the community. This year, even the Local Health Committee was interested in participating. Campaigns such as "Day D" bring awareness to the consequences of Zika infections and motivate the community to take action and seek advice or information."

During the campaign, nurses made house visits, providing people with educational material. "That is a rare thing," said Dr. Quintanilla, "[and] when people saw the health unit nurses in the street traveling house to house, they were curious and more interested in [thinking about] the Zika virus as a serious threat. They [even] started to clean and eliminate water containers right away!" This behavior change, is exactly what the ZICORE project aims to invoke, empowering community-members to take action against a serious threat and to help them understand that they play an important role in controlling and preventing the spread of the Zika virus.

"Many of our nurses didn't know some specifics about Zika," continued Dr. Quintanilla, "for example the asymptomatic characteristic of the virus or that it can be sexually transmitted. Now [the nurses] can share this with community members. We even stuck some ZICORE flyers in the minivans that we travel in, so the medical staff from other areas can also learn [about the disease]."

The "Day D" activities are a small part of an integrated approach to reducing the impact of the Zika virus in 14 municipalities in El Salvador and Guatemala. The project aims to engage communities to take action against the spread of the virus through greater awareness (of signs and symptoms of the disease, of avenues of transmission and means of personal and environmental prevention) and participation.

This blog post is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of MCDI and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Members of the community working on cleaning activities during Day D.

Educational materials provided door-to-door during Day D.

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