The coronavirus pandemic has spread swiftly to almost every corner of the world, claiming more than 318,000 lives and forcing billions into isolation.

Since January, UNICEF has been working across the Asia Pacific region to prevent the spread of COVID-19 using a simple, yet powerful tool: accurate information. 

All over the world, there has been no shortage of false information spreading rumours of treatments and preventative measures to COVID-19. 

UNICEF Australia International Programs Manager, Aaron Moore, says dispelling myths around coronavirus has been critical in helping people around the world understand how COVID-19 is transferred and how to protect themselves from the virus. 

“Accessing accurate information in some parts of the world can be extremely difficult and confusing. For example, misinformation is currently spreading in the Pacific region that COVID-19 can be prevented by drinking alcohol; that the virus is killed by exposure to cold or conversely to heat; or that being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds means you are free from the virus,” Aaron says. 

“This misinformation can cost lives. What you know is a key driver of what you do. Having the right knowledge doesn’t compel you to act the right way but it gives you the opportunity to make an informed response on how to act in an effective way. Without that first piece, that knowledge, people are left helpless and hopeless in the face of the disease.”
UNICEF Cambodia's risk communication and community engagement activities are ensuring the entire population has access to COVID-19 information. © UNICEF/UNI331899/2020

UNICEF has provided public health information to more than 109 million children and families in the Asia Pacific region. In Cambodia alone, we have reached some 8.3 million people with public health messaging to ensure the most marginalised, including children and women, have access to reliable and tailored information on the risks of COVID-19.

Over 36 communication materials have been produced, broadcast and distributed across Cambodia.

Businesses have partnered with UNICEF to reach out to places of work and their customers and telecommunication companies are providing Cambodians with daily tips on hygiene, physical distancing, stigma, mental health, and how to help children learn from home and keep them safe online. 

The results are remarkable. In less than two months, UNICEF messages on COVID-19 have reached two thirds of the population of Cambodia.

But still, many are missing out.
 
In less than two months, UNICEF messages on COVID-19 have reached two thirds of the population of Cambodia. © UNICEF/UNI331914/2020

In the town of Chamka Ovleuk, village chief Im Sivorn knows just how important accurate information is in stopping the spread of this deadly virus. 

“Not all of our people know or understand what this virus can do to you,” says Im, who has been village chief for 12 years. 

“That is why it is important that we go door-to-door to spread information and stop the virus.” 

Well, almost door to door. Im is going street-by-street to put up COVID-19 prevention posters and broadcast messages through the loudspeakers on her tuk-tuk so that people with no internet, television or radio can learn how to protect themselves and help prevent the spread of the infection.  
 
“...It is important that we go door-to-door
to spread information and stop the virus.”
UNICEF has provided public health information to more than 109 million children and families in the Asia Pacific region.© UNICEF/UNI331905/2020

Almost half of the population in East Asia and Pacific - 1.2 billion people - live in urban areas with over 250 million living in urban slums (World Bank, 2017). The pandemic has further strained an already weak social-protection system. Many children and their families live in desperate conditions with limited or no access to basic services.

Roughly 727 million people don’t have safe water in six of the 26 East Asia and Pacific countries. A lack of clean and safe water with poor hygiene practices increases the spread of COVID-19 and puts those who are already vulnerable and prone to disease at greater risk.  

While communicating accurate information on COVID-19 is critical in helping people make behavioural changes, UNICEF is also focused on ensuring communities have access to safe water and sanitation services and supplies to practice those behavioural changes and to combat the disease.

As well as the large communication efforts across Cambodia, UNICEF reached almost 39,000 adults and more than 11,000 children across the country with critical water, sanitation and hygiene supplies - including the distribution of 700 ceramic water filters, cleaning supplies, green bins and hand sanitisers to migration centres where people seek support after suffering duress like fleeing persecution. 
Im is going street-by-street to put up COVID-19 prevention posters and broadcast messages through the loudspeakers on her tuk-tuk so that people with no internet, television or radio can learn how to protect themselves and help prevent the spread of the infection. © UNICEF/UNI331901/2020
In Cambodia alone, we have reached some 8.3 million people with public health messaging to ensure the most marginalised, including children and women, have access to reliable and tailored information on the risks of COVID-19. © UNICEF/UNI331907/2020
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