17 April 2009
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British Red Cross aid worker Ina Bluemel has taken a leaf out of Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry’s book and started ‘tweeting’ from Zimbabwe.
As part of efforts to combat the ongoing cholera outbreak in the country, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives and infected more than 95,000 people, Ina is helping educate school children and students about the dangers of cholera and how they can keep themselves safe.
At the same time, she is keeping people around the world in touch with her work by ‘tweeting’ updates on her mobile phone, which are then posted on the British Red Cross twitter page at www.twitter.com/britishredcross
“The work the Red Cross is doing can be lifesaving for people in the communities here, “ said Ina. “Cholera is an endemic disease in Zimbabwe, which means it is a virtually constant threat, and the current outbreak has been particularly severe.
“By strengthening the hygiene promotion activities and motivating Red Cross volunteers to continue their activities throughout the year, we are actively contributing to a healthier future for the communities we reach.”
Working alongside Zimbabwe Red Cross volunteers, Ina has helped develop role-plays, presentations, posters and other materials to get anti-cholera messages across to as many young people as possible.
“Promoting hygiene messages to young people is one of the best ways to combat the disease – the students pass on what they learn to their families when they get home, so the messages end up reaching people throughout the community,” she said.
According to Ina, ‘tweeting’ about her work in Zimbabwe goes hand-in-hand with the task of getting the message across about cholera.
“I’m here to communicate about cholera, and letting people around the world know more about the situation in Zimbabwe and the work of the Red Cross is an important part of that,” she said.
“Because it’s so immediate, it’s a really effective way of putting people in touch with what is happening.”
Charles Williams, British Red Cross Editorial Manager, explained the reasons behind the charity’s use of twitter:
“Sometimes disasters can seem so far away, and the immediacy of twitter really helps bridge that gap and bring home the human reality of a situation,” he said.
“Right now Ina is in Zimbabwe helping save lives, and right now she is able to tell people in the UK and all around the world about that work.
“That has a real impact for individuals and their awareness and connection with a situation which may be thousands of miles away.
“For people like Ina time is at a premium and for her to be able to invest such a small amount of it and be able to reach so many people is a massive benefit.”
Read Ina’s ‘tweets’ at www.twitter.com/britishredcross
Find out more about British Red Cross work in Zimbabwe at www.redcross.org.uk/zimbabwe
The Red Cross has been responding to the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe since it began last year, providing lifesaving clean water, water purification and hygiene kits, medical care and education to thousands of people across the affected areas.
Available for interview: Charles Williams, British Red Cross Editorial Manager. Call Mark South on 020 7877 7042
Past Twitter features
In January and February, Sarah Oughton, one of our writers, visited projects for young people affected by conflict in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
In March, press officer Mandy George visited TB projects in central Asia.
At the beginning of April, our head of international finance Andy Brimelow updated us about his trip to Ramallah, where he worked with the Palestine Red Crescent to report on how they're using funds from the Gaza Crisis Appeal.
In February Stephen Fry used twitter to alert people to the British Red Cross Australian Bushfires appeal.
The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.