Animation tells the story of Ebola and how to avoid it

 

Ray Maota

ebola1-text Animation is being used to help people in Ebola affected areas to understand the disease and dispel fears (Image: United Methodist Communications).

Ebola has the world on tenterhooks as countries and medical groups scramble to contain the rampant disease. And misinformation is adding to the hysteria surrounding the deadly virus. But working in West Africa, the centre of the outbreak, United Methodist Communications has turned to animation to spread factual information about the illness and how it is contracted.

Through collaboration with Chocolate Moose Media and iHeed, an Irish social enterprise that produces digital training content, United Methodist has produced a video and is sharing it across West Africa to educate people on the disease. Chocolate Moose Media, founded by Firdaus Kharas, produces animation, documentaries, films and television series designed to educate, entertain, and change societal and individual behaviour via a process Kharas calls culture shift.

Ebola is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads through person-to-person transmission. The body of a deceased person can also play a role in transmission. “Our goal is to provide education that leads to better understanding to prevent infections,” explained Reverend Larry Hollon, the chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “Ebola gains foothold in poor communities where mistrust, resistance to proper care, and lack of understanding of the virus and is widespread. The church’s advantage lies in its network of trusted leaders who live in the affected regions.”

United Methodist Communications is the global communications agency of the United Methodist Church. It uses several methods to convey education, including text messages to clergy in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as commentaries by trusted leaders to encourage co-operation with health programmes.

The video

The video has been produced in various languages, including English and French with West African voices, as well as West African languages. Production took place in more than 10 countries, including Canada, Guinea, India, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States. The 20-person production team was headed by Kharas.

“I have created what I hope will be a compelling video to prevent the spread of Ebola,” he said. “My approach was to combine animation with non-coercive persuasion by having Africans speak to their own broader family.”

iHeed’s medical director, Dr Kunal Patel, explained that through a combination of weak health infrastructure, inconsistent levels of education and unpreparedness, the epidemic had become a global threat. “Digital media can fill the gaps. In combination with technologies such as mobile phones, cinemas, projectors and tablets, animated information can help.”

The video tells the story of a young boy who is infected with the virus when he tries to help a mother with a baby who has the disease. He tells his family and community the facts regarding the disease, and warns them what not to do. He also gives them words of hope that the disease will be stopped by the medical people helping in the village.

The video will be distributed by all three partners through international organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil society and churches, and through social media using the hashtag #Ebolavideo. It can also be also be downloaded on United Methodist’s website.

Watch the video here:

 

Ebola

According to the World Health Organization, 7 470 cases of Ebola had been reported as of 3 October, with 3 431 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Symptoms of infection include: fever greater than 38.6°C, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhoea and vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained haemorrhaging and bruising.

Symptoms can take anything from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola to appear, but the average is eight to 10 days, according to the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

The fight against the virus

Brice de le Vingne, Médecins Sans Frontières’ director of operations, described the fight against Ebola as a war. “The fight against Ebola is like a war, and we need a very clear chain of command. There are 3 000 American soldiers being sent to Liberia, and the British army is also sending troops to support NGOs. We still do not really know who will operate the emergency health centres. At the moment, the deployment is slower than the epidemic, so we are losing ground.”

He added that the only time the scourge of the virus would be dealt with was once a vaccine was developed. “The development of a vaccine depends on private companies [that] want to make a profit. In order to encourage them, we simply have to promise them orders. That is the job of the international community but we do not have the luxury of time,” he said.