Washington, DC, Atlanta, Panama City, May 19, 2016 (PAHO/WHO/CNLA/UNICEF) — "Calling all superheroes. This is not a drill. Our communities have been invaded by dangerous mosquitoes and we need help." With those words, Cartoon Network Latin America is launching "Mission Zika," an educational campaign to raise awareness about Zika in Latin America, using Public Service Announcements that raise awareness about Zika and means of prevention.
The campaign is a collaboration between Cartoon Network Latin America, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which works to improve health in all the countries in the Americas, and UNICEF, which works to protect children worldwide.
"Our friends in the United Nations count on you to help them prevent the reproduction of the mosquitoes which transmit the fearsome Zika virus," the mission begins.
"These bugs can also transmit other diseases like dengue or chikungunya. They are a danger to all of you and if you collaborate to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds in standing water, you can help your family and friends avoid catching this infection."
In the campaign, mission instructions call on all young superheroes to help stop the spread of the virus and protect themselves, their families and neighborhoods.
"Your mission is to organize a team to search for all types of recipients that can contain water in your home, your garden and your neighborhood: from barrels and tires to flowerpots and pet bowls, cover them or empty them weekly," the Public Service Announcement instructs.
The goal of the campaign, which enlists several of Cartoon Network's most beloved characters, such as the Powerpuff Girls and Ben 10, is to inform and empower children to help prevent Zika by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds.
The campaign also teaches kids to: "use long sleeves and long pants when you can, use insect repellents recommended by health authorities according to instructions on the label. If you take naps in the daytime, sleep under a mosquito net, and ask your parents or other adults to install screens in your doors and windows."
"We are happy to collaborate with Cartoon Network Latin America in this key initiative of reaching out to children in the Americas as part of our campaign to educate the public on preventing the spread of Zika virus infection," said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of PAHO. "Our most important tool to combat Zika—and at the same time, dengue and chikungunya—is control of the Aedes mosquitoes that live in and around houses and bite people. As children learn the facts from this Cartoon Network campaign, they can help in our effort to reduce the number of mosquitoes in the Americas, we can help prevent disease and save lives," she added.
"This partnership harnesses CNLA's media power as a kids' entertainment channel to the technical expertise and on-the-ground presence of PAHO and UNICEF. Our experience around the world shows that children can make a real difference as part of community engagement strategies to address public health issues. This campaign aims to reduce fear, counteract misinformation, and show positive actions that can have a positive impact," said Barry Koch, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Tooncast Latin America.
Children can become advocates for Zika prevention and control at home, in school and in their community by talking to others about how to prevent infection. "This campaign is a great opportunity to engage children and let them contribute to the solution", said Marita Perceval, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.