“I have had cholera twice now and I thought you caught it through the air, so I didn’t know how to stop that. Now I know I need to wash my hands and only drink safe water. Now I will not catch cholera a third time!”

Annie Kamara, Kissy town, Sierra Leone

By the time the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation confirmed the cholera outbreak in three districts in March 2012, the disease had claimed 34 lives and affected 2,137 persons. The subsequent spread of cholera to neighbouring districts was attributed to the high mobility of people from one community to another for commercial and personal activities. Poor sanitary conditions, which led to contamination of water sources, was a key factor as well.

As part of the cholera response, the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, with support from the IFRC, launched a mobile cinema, which toured the country showing an animated film about cholera prevention alongside hygiene promotion activities. The cinema also engaged communities in debate about the issues in their communities by asking for their feedback on four key questions:

  1. What causes cholera?
  2. How do you make water safe to drink?
  3. What are the issues in your community that increase the risk of cholera?
  4. Where do you go to the toilet if there are no latrines?

A hand washing demonstration and a song giving the recipe for home-made oral rehydration solution were also included. After the screening of the film, participants were asked what they had learnt, to see whether people could suggest solutions to the
issues in their community. Finally, the film was shown for a second time and the community was given the chance to ask questions.