By Joel Arthur  Kiendrébéogo

The webinar

The Zika virus disease outbreak and its associated complications such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome have highlighted persisting challenges and revealed new problems in implementing effective risk communication and community engagement. However, there is a universal agreement that affected communities are at the centre for effectively controlling and preventing the spread of infectious diseases and mitigating the negative consequences of humanitarian disasters, as strongly stressed by the epidemic of the Ebola Virus Disease ( Despite this, a biomedical and technically-driven model continues to underpin programmatic and operational responses and has limited opportunities to reduce vulnerability and support psychological and social resilience of affected and at-risk populations.

The last webinar dedicated to Zika virus and co-organized by the HHA CoPs in collaboration with WHO Geneva and ITM-Antwerp will take place tomorrow,  Wednesday, 18th May, from 11h30 AM to 1 PM GMT (13h30 – 15h00 Geneva time).

The speakers are Dr Gaya Gamhewage and Ms Asiya Odugleh-Kolev from WHO Geneva (please, see their biosketches below).

Dr Gaya Gamhewage will present on : Zika and public health messaging/ community engagement. The speaker will outline the major issues for this area for the Zika response and how these challenges are being addressed. She will describe the global operations for Zika and propose ways forward in the next phase of the response

Ms Asiya Odugleh-Kolev will present on : Fear, trust and the Zika virus.

Using examples from past emergencies and the current Zika response, the speaker will discuss what needs to change for meaningful and effective community engagement, what this means for public health practice, and the role of WHO and partners in promoting people-centred health services.

How to join the webinar ?

To attend this webinar, please, join the platform 15 minutes before its start. Just follow this link:

Looking forward to engaging with all of you very soon during the webinar.

The Biosketches of the the panelists

GayaDr Gaya Gamhewage, is Medical officer in the Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases Department in the Outbreaks and Health emergencies Cluster at WHO Headquarters. A medical doctor by training, she currently heads a Knowledge Transfer and Training Team responsible for transforming science and policy on disease outbreaks into action on the ground for emergency response. Training and risk communication are seen as two ways to get science into action.

Dr Gamhewage has 15 years of experience in WHO including 8 years in humanitarian response capacity building, and 4 years as head of Corporate Communications and 3 years as head of risk communications. She is currently also responsible for supporting governments across the world build sustainable risk communications capacity as required by the International health regulations (2005), the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework and for integrating risk communication in all outbreak response work. In 2015 alone, she and her team trained 1,500 experts from 122 countries in risk communication. She is also leading the development of WHO’s first-ever evidence-based guideline on emergency risk communication and has published several articles on the practice of risk communication in the21st century. She also has experience on academia, ministry of health, international NGOs and community-based organizations.

For the international response to the Ebola Virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa 2014-2015, Dr Gamhewage was assigned to coordinate all Ebola-related training for WHO. She leads risk communication and community engagement work at global level for WHO’s responses to Zika and Yellow Fever. She currently serves on the WHO Guideline Review Committee.

A medical doctor by training, Dr Gamhewage holds an Executive Master in International Negotiation and Policy-Making by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva and has several qualifications in conflict management, negotiation, and in initiatives such as UNICEF’s Children as Zones of Peace and WHO`s Health as Bridge for Peace. She has training in public health advocacy, social marketing, adult learning and medical teaching, human rights programming and global health studies.

Born in Sri Lanka, Gaya spent most her childhood in England. She spent 8 years in China studying and practicing medicine, and has carried out assignments in more than 50 countries. She speaks English, Chinese and Sinhalese and is learning Russian.

asiyaMs Asiya Odugleh-Kolev, Department of Service Delivery and Safety (SDS/WHO)

Ms Asiya Odugleh-Kolev leads the work on community engagement for resilience and quality in the Department of Service Delivery and Safety (SDS), WHO, Geneva. She joined WHO in 2001 to work on WHO’s Communication-for-Behavioural-Impact (COMBI) methodology and has applied the framework to a range of health challenges including: avian influenza, dengue, Ebola, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, pandemic influenza and polio. In addition to being the focal point for COMBI in WHO, her work has concentrated on developing approaches, tools and guidance which integrate behavioural interventions into readiness and response to epidemics and emerging diseases. She has been part of WHO multidisciplinary outbreak response teams and has trained international and national rapid response teams. Prior to joining WHO, she worked for UNICEF Somalia in Programme Communication and Social Mobilization.

Ms Odugleh-Kolev qualified as a Registered General Nurse from the Sheffield School of Nursing; she has a BA (Hons) in Third World Studies with Anthropology from the University of East London; a Postgraduate Diploma in Print Journalism from the University of Westminster, London; and a Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


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3 Responses to Our last webinar on Zika virus: involving the community in outbreak responses

  1. Erica Wetzler says:

    If I cannot attend the webinar, can I listen to a recording afterwards?

  2. I’d like to listen to a recording afterwards, I will not be able to listen to the webinar

  3. Will there be a replay of the recording?

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