Written by: Vicky Maskell, U-Report Specialist LACRO.

Brazilian mum Amanda kisses her baby Livia, who was born with Congenital Zika Syndrome. Photo: ©UNICEF/BRZ/Paulo Rossi
Zika is here to stay.’ That’s the message the World Health Organization published on 21 November – when it changed the status of Zika from a Public Health Emergency of International Concern to a long-term health situation. UNICEF is working across Latin America and the Caribbean to prevent Zika, and to make sure that families affected receive the appropriate care and support they need.

U-Report has been a central communication tool in this work, as a method of sending and receiving vital information about Zika. Information generated by U-Reporters has continuously highlighted significant gaps in knowledge around Zika, its symptoms (or lack of), methods of transmission (not just by mosquito but also via sex), and lack of information about the consequences of Zika, especially as it can affect the long-term development of babies during pregnancy.


U-Reporters in Honduras share their opinions during a Zika and U-Report workshop @UNICEF/Honduras/VickyMaskell

In order to address this knowledge gap, we held a U-Report Zika live Chat. The 31,000 U-Reporters across Latin America and the Caribbean were given the opportunity to ask their questions to a panel of experts during a 4-hour live chat. Questions ranged from asking about Zika and how to prevent it, to questions about sexual health and other illnesses facing Latin America and the Caribbean. The most popular questions were: What is Zika? What are the consequences? What are the symptoms? What is the relationship between AIDS and Zika? Is it true that you can transmit Zika by sex (and questions about other STIs)? Where does Zika come from?

1022 questions were answered during the Live Chat itself, and a further 500 questions were answered in the days immediately following. Many U-Reporters sent in messages of thanks after the chat, including this message from a 20-year old male U-Reporter in Colombia: ‘Thanks for the information during the chat. I hope we’re going to have more conversations about important things like this. Thank you for the explanation you gave me.’

Whilst a 14-year old female U-Reporter from Dominican Republic said: ‘Thanks U-Report Global. You’re the best!’

The U-Report Zika live chat was made possible by the support of 10 UNV Online Volunteers who supported UNICEF in answering the questions asked by U-Reporters using a pre-approved FAQ document ( English and Spanish). During the live chat, Health and Zika colleagues from UNICEF LACRO were able to provide answers to unanticipated questions, and in which volunteers helped translate into Spanish, French, and English. The U-Report Zika Live Chat was promoted via social media, attracting a further 850 U-Reporters to the platform.

‘U-Report enables us to empower individuals in their communities to protect themselves and their friends from Zika, mosquito based diseases and sexually transmitted infections. The fact that we were able to answer over 1500 individual questions, including over 1000 during the specific times of the U-Report Zika Live Chat means we have 1500 people who are better informed and equipped to prevent Zika, and able to share the information with their friends and families. That’s really powerful,’ comments Vicky Maskell, U-Report Specialist for Zika Response, UNICEF LACRO.

U-Reporters in Honduras make mini-promos for U-Report as part of a workshop on Zika and U-Report. @UNICEF/Honduras/Vicky Maskell
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