The Education Sector Response to Pandemics: Efforts to Prevent and Mitigate the Virus Spread Resources for Educators and Humanitarian Workers

>> 20090501

Dear INEE Members,

According to the World Health Organization, the Swine Flu or Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic continues to evolve rapidly: as of Friday 1 May, 11 countries have officially reported cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection. The United States Government has reported 132 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Mexico has confirmed 156 human cases of infection, including nine deaths - although authorities suspect that the actual death toll is closer to 180. There are other confirmed cases in Canada, Spain, Britain, New Zealand, Germany, Israel, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
While the situation has not reached full-blown pandemic proportions, we would like to encourage all members to take this opportunity to consider what plans they have in place should this type of emergency impact on the communities with which you work. The twin challenges for the education community will be ensuring that schools and learning centers are used to disseminate relevant and accurate preparedness and mitigation information, such as the importance of personal hygiene such as handwashing, and information about where to go for medical advice and treatment, while at the same time, in the event of school closures, ensuring that educational activities continue to be supported through alternative means, such as radio or the internet. You will find a number of resources and websites below to assist you in preparedness and response planning. We are also keen to learn of the kinds of contingency plans and programmatic responses that agencies have in place as well as guidance tolls that they are using so that the network can share relevant information and good practice for members to learn from should the outbreak grow in scale.
How are the Education Systems in Mexico, the United States, and around the world responding?
According to World Vision Mexico, all classes at all levels (from kindergarten to universities, both public and private) have been suspended in Mexico since last week until May 6th.

U.S. President Obama said that it was time for Americans to develop "contingency plans" if school or business closings disrupt their personal lives. "Our public health officials have recommended that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of this flu strongly consider temporarily closing," he said. "And if more schools are forced to close, we've recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans if their children do have to stay home."
To close or not to close? Earlier this week, US health officials had been urging K-12 schools to stay open if possible. But as the week wears on, more public school systems are initiating widespread closures. In Texas, for instance, at least 100,000 students across 13 districts remained at home Thursday as entire suburban districts closed. Some plan to remain closed until May 11. As long as their classes remain open, schools say they are taking precautions, including disinfecting areas throughout school buildings.

Schools have a key role to play in Pandemics: Among other things, schools and learning centers can play a key role in educating students about how to prevent the spread of the virus and send vital information on prevention, mitigation and preparedness home with students for them to share with family and community members. In addition, where phone trees connect schools with parents, health officials can piggyback on the systems to send warnings, updates and educational information at a moment's notice.

UN agencies and NGOs, including those that support education programming, are also asking staff to ensure contingency plans are in place. Some are also restricting travel to minimize risk of contagion.

How have the schools and communities you work with dealt with this or other pandemics and subsequent school closures?

For instance, CNN has reported that some children in Mexico are continuing their studies informally online. Radio is also being considered as a method to continue instruction. Please share your experiences, emailing these as well as any guidelines or tools to so INEE can collate and share best practices to help the education community respond to this and future pandemics.


Please see below for a number of resources designed for educators, humanitarian workers, parents, students and communities to learn how to prevent, mitigate, and respond to this pandemic. We encourage all members, even those in areas not directly impacted by the current situation, to take a look at the guidance below, as much of it is helpful in the development or strengthening of contingency plans. In addition many of the reources serve as a reminder of good hygiene and santiation practice, and therefore relevant to us all.


INEE Secretariat

Resources and Relevant Organizations
Thanks especially to HIP and the CORE group for this information

Humanitarians in Pandemics Working Group:

What you need to know about pandemic influenza: A briefing paper for humanitarian staff$File/full_report.p
This paper seeks to provide busy humanitarian staff in the field with a few key facts of which they should be aware in the event of a pandemic, and with advice on where to go for more detailed information. It also advises on key planning actions that organisations should take to be ready to continue serving beneficiaries during a pandemic. With regard to education in particular, the paper asserts the likelihood of school closures and that students could be out of school for an extended period of time.

This paper was created by the informal inter-agency 'Humanitarians in Pandemic' working group, with the collaboration of several UN agencies, international NGOs, the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement, and USAID. For all enquiries, please contact OCHA's Pandemic Influenza Coordination team at

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a website offering a checklist of guidelines and procedures for school leaders to follow:

UN Influenza Portal
Features news and information about Avian Influenza and the Pandemic threat from across the UN system and its partners.
Inter-Agency Pandemic Preparedness Website
Provides information on the status of pandemic preparedness worldwide, as well as practical guidance and tools.
The US Department of Education hosted a conference call to guide education officials on how to identify, contain, report and prevent swine influenza in school facilities. Learn more here:

Mexico's Ministry of Health's website offers information in Spanish on the response and prevention against swine flu:

World Health Organization:

1)WHO webpage on Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response:
Contains essential information and guidance on pandemic preparedness for countries.

2)Pandemic influenza preparedness and mitigation in refugee and displaced populations.
WHO guidelines for humanitarian agencies.

Second edition, May 2008:

3) Pandemic influenza preparedness and response
WHO guidance document:

Prevention tips from the Center for Disease Control:
CORE Group Pandemic Flu Preparedness Web Pages
Pandemic preparedness resources for NGOs and information about the Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness (H2P) initiative. It also includes training guides relating to the prevetion of the spread of flu at the community level, designed for use with sub-national and community leaders and community-level staff and vonlunteers reaching out to the public. It is relevant when a pandemic threatens (i.e., WHO Pandemic Alert Phase 4, or above).
USAID Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness (H2P) Initiative Website
his is the USAID Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness (H2P) Initiative Website, an initiative that includes the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the CORE Group, AI.COMM, InterAction and several UN Agencies. This site contains addresses pandemic prepardness at the community level, with resource in English and Spanish.
International SOS Swine Flu Update

Swine Flu PowerPoint
Updated daily (English, Spanish, Russian- click on START to get the ppt) (US Uniformed Services Univ. of the Health Sciences)

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

Timely, independent and scientific expert analysis of flu news

The Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness Initiative supports the development of influenza pandemic preparedness plans and protocols of the humanitarian sector in the areas of health, food security and livelihoods in designated countries:

The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center and Nestle Thailand are sponsoring a conference on Community-Based Approaches to Management of Avian and Human Influenza (AHI) in Asia.

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