Frontline Stories

Children and Women are Most Vulnerable to Zika Virus


The unexpected spread of Zika virus is causing great concern in Latin America and especially in countries like Colombia and Brazil, where there have been thousands of cases, including pregnant women. According to the Pan American Health Organization, there have been local transmission of Zika virus in 26 countries. It is estimated that the epidemic could affect about 400 million people in Latin American and the Caribbean.

World Vision is working closely with the ministries of health and the international community to combine response actions. In Brazil, World Vision has initiated prevention efforts in communities to reduce the spread of virus, and is coordinating with the government to help where it is needed.

Our overall experience in the fight against Ebola in West Africa, has shown the importance of working with local leaders, including churches and faith-based organisations, to disseminate accurate prevention messages and dispel any misinformation, rumours and scaremongering. World Vision has former experience supporting local and national governments in Latin America to combat dengue epidemic in previous years, including mobilisation campaigns and communication interventions for behavioural change, which aimed at controlling and eliminating breeding places of Aedes mosquito, recognising signs and symptoms, and seeking medical attention.

It is imperative that governments and the international community commit necessary funds to strengthen health services, especially in the most vulnerable communities, so they may know the correct ways to prevent the transmission of Zika. Pregnant women should be protected as a priority, receiving prenatal controls and accurate information on how to protect themselves. If pregnant women become infected with Zika, they should receive precise medical monitoring to recognise signs of microcephaly or other disorders in the foetus and newborn babies. Microcephaly is a catastrophe for normal brain development of children and could be a strong social and economic burden on families, communities and countries.

Community mobilisation, as well as civil society organisations participation, including churches, is key to complement the efforts of governments. The actions should focus on a wide promotion that encourages people individually and collectively to control and eliminate the breeding of Aedes mosquito, take preventive measures to avoid mosquito bites, know and detect signs of disease and seek immediate medical attention when needed.

The World Health Organisation has declared Zika virus as a global emergency. Therefore, World Vision joins the call for the international community to respond effectively, and to invest resources and mobilise local communities, national and global institutions to take part.

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