Ebola health info available in all SA languages

One of the most effective ways of fighting disinformation on the disease is with clear, factual knowledge.

FILE: The initiative has been spearheaded across Africa by the Wikipedia project in a bid to make Ebola information easily available in any language. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - South Africans can get advice on how to prevent and recognise the symptoms of the Ebola virus in all 11 official languages.

The initiative has been spearheaded across Africa by the Wikipedia project, Wiki Project Medicine's Translation Task Force, whose volunteers saw a lack of relevant information on Wikipedia in the languages of regions affected by the outbreak.

The current Ebola outbreak is the largest incidence in history for this disease with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting 3,062 suspected cases and 1,552 deaths by 26 August.

The United Nations estimates $600 million will be needed to bring the epidemic under control by slowing down the growth in new cases within two months and stopping all transmission in six to nine months.

Isla Haddow-Flood, Project Manager at WikiAfrica said, "There is a massive crisis unfolding on the continent and one of the most effective ways of fighting the fear, disinformation and spread of the disease is with clear, factual knowledge - the kind you can access free, and on your mobile phone."

She says Wikipedia is written by volunteers and in many cases the data is freely available via Wikipedia Zero, but in Africa for a number of reasons, the numbers of local language editors is very low. The translations were donated by global language service provider Rubric.

At the same time, the United States announced on Tuesday it will send 3,000 troops to help tackle the Ebola outbreak as part of a ramped-up plan, including a major deployment in Liberia, the country where the epidemic is spiralling fastest out of control.

The US response to the crisis, to be formally unveiled later by President Barack Obama, includes plans to build 17 treatment centres, train thousands of healthcare workers and establish a military control centre for coordination, US officials told reporters.

The WHO has said it needs foreign medical teams with 500-600 experts as well as at least 10,000 local health workers. The figures may rise if the number of cases increases, as is widely expected.

So far Cuba and China have said they will send medical staff to Sierra Leone. Cuba will deploy 165 people in October while China is sending a mobile laboratory with 59 staff to speed up testing for the disease. It already has 115 staff and a Chinese-funded hospital there.