People should eat chicken and eggs without fear, and television and radio should provide free airtime for avian influenza educational spots, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday.
Hun Sen instructed Information Minister Khieu Kanharith to ask the broadcast media help to educate the public, specifying that broadcasters should devote prime-time spots during pop music shows to bird flu information.
“We should not be so afraid that we are scared to eat eggs,” Hun Sen said. “[Chicken] is not a problem as long as it is well cooked and we do not eat chickens that die,” he added.
World Health Organization epidemiologist Dr Megge Miller said Hun Sen had asked for free broadcast time in 2005, but that stations had begun asking for fees again, which strained the Health Ministry’s budget.
UN Children’s Fund Country Representative Rodney Hatfield said Unicef is collaborating with the government and the WHO to educate the public through the media as well as in schools.
“What is obvious from the experience of the past week is that we need a more intensive approach,” Hatfield said in reference to last week’s bird flu death.
Villagers in Kompong Speu province, where the 3-year old died, reported that the toddler liked to play with chickens and that they knew nothing about bird flu.
“TV does have wide reach. While not many people own televisions…a much higher percentage watch them,” he said.
Khieu Kanharith said he had already conveyed the message to broadcasters. “This is for the collective benefit,” he said, adding that some stations could begin airing additional spots as early as today.