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[afro-nets] When rumours derail a mass deworming exercise (2)
- From: "Atsu Seake-kwawu" <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 18:41:29 +0100 (BST)
This article makes interesting. I believe my personal experience of the events can confirm most of the observations in the article.
I was in the thick of events that day in one of the districts where the rumour was most rife. As early as 7am when I was getting ready for work, a call from my district political head to the effect that two children were reported to have collapsed after receiving the deworming drug in a nearby school set me unsettled. I had hardly set off to investigate the veracity of this and respond appropriately when another call from the same source came and this time, it was more scary-- thirty pupils were alleged to have died after taking the drug in another school. I reached both schools to find that they had not even yet begun giving out the drug before the rumours had begun circulating. Worse of all, the head of one of these schools did inform me that he had heard that the adverse reaction was rather in another school. It did not take long to establish the trail-- wild rumour which can set one on a wild goose chase. I cross-checked from the district hospital and no pupil was brought there for any condition.
After carrying out the necessary education to reassure the huge numbers of pupils and scared parents gathered in the schools visited, I set out to understand clearly why such a rumour mongering on that scale. Certain facts became clear:
1. Inadequate social mobilisation-- most parents did not understand why teachers should be deployed to give drugs to their children when nurses should have been doing that. If mobilisation were adequately done, the population would have been better informed to accept the teacher model and react more rationally to the rumours.
2. one pupil was rushed to a hospital in a neighbouring school because of an accident- this fueled the rumours that it was true children were falling sick after the medication.
3. the widespread use of mobile phones facilitated the speedy dissemination of the rumour to at least four regions of Ghana where panic stricken parents were common sight.
4. mischief , for whatever, reasons beyond the non-acceptance of teachers to do what nurses should have done, was also a possibility as the earliest indication of a rumour of adverse events took place some three days before February 12, 2007 although this could not be confirmed.
The effect on future mass intervention programmes can be predicted now and the planners of such programmes should put more resources into social mobilisation. The assumption that pupils were a passive group who could take anything from the teacher was proved wrong on February 12. Meanwhile I deeply sympathise with poor teachers who bore the brunt of angry parents. As co-actors in public health, they deserve better protection through better planning and implementation.
Dr Atsu Seake-Kwawu
Director of Health Services, Keta district