Fighting ebola with technology and information
To this day, the ebola outbreak in West Africa has caused more than 4000 deaths in the region and though there si not a cure or vaccine for the disease, the virus can be stopped through preventive action, but one of the hardest obstacles to overcome in this fight is fear and misinformation.
As Aliou Boly, from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has said since the population in this region hasn’t had contact with the disease before “there are a lot of misconceptions and rumors surrounding it (…) the red cross, through our volunteers who are in the communities, is playing an active role by providing people with accurate information and advice on how to protect themselves and prevent the disease from spreading”. With this in mind the Red Cross has been providing people in the region with awareness workshops among other activities oriented to teach people how to prevent the spread of the disease.
One of the tools that is changing the spread of information in this battle against the Ebola is the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA) technology, which is been used in Sierra Leone to raise awareness on the prevention of the disease through SMS, reaching through this medium up to 2 million people, increasing this way the odds of preventing the disease.
The TERA system allows aid agencies to interact in real time with mobile phone users in a disaster area, providing them with accurate, timely and targeted information thus helping speed the recovery of the affected areas, unlike traditional SMS broadcasting the TERA system allows the aid agencies to target an specific area thus making it easier to deliver accurate advice to the communities.
It is not the first time that TERA system is used to allow the dissemination of information on affected areas, it was first use during the Haiti earthquake of 2010, to provide information on available health services, clean water spots, food, shelter, among others; it was also tested last year in Sierra Leone to help spread information on prevention of cholera through last year’s outbreak, helping them decrease the amount of cases. Similarly, the BBC has launched an information service in partnership with Whatsapp and Mxit to distribute content related to the outbreak and thus try to raise awareness on the subject and prevent the spread of the disease.