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Sierra Leone’s Ebola-Themed Soap Opera Gets Renewed for Third Season

A radio soap opera launched in Sierra Leone in January to spread awareness of how to properly defend against Ebola was renewed this week for a third season after the series, funded by a national bank, proved a smash hit.

The soap opera, titled Us Kayn Tin Dis in the native Krio language, focuses around the themes of how Ebola is spread and what to do once someone in the family or neighborhood has been confirmed to carry the virus. At the end of each episode, the radio stations airing the project broadcast a quiz about Ebola dangers. Themes covered on the show include “prevention, transmission, treatment, safe burial practices, dispelling the myths, eliminating stigma and promoting unity,” local media report. Listeners can win a number of prizes, including essential food items. Winners are announced weekly.

Standard Chartered Bank first invested $30,000 into the development of the soap opera in December, which first aired in January. It is broadcast through 48 radio stations nationwide. “The soap continues to gain momentum on a weekly basis, with nearly four million (more than 50%) of the total population in Sierra Leone [having] been reached so far,” said the bank’s CEO and Head of Retail Clients to the nation’s Awareness Times.

Officials at the Standard Charter Bank stated at the premiere of the series that their intention was not just to donate money to a charitable project, but to protect the bank and its employees from a health disaster that had rapidly become an economic disaster, as well. “Building public awareness about the impact of Ebola on businesses is one of the most important elements in assisting them to respond effectively to Ebola which is not only a health issue but also one that goes to the very core of business practices,” said executive David Samba Mansaray.

During the first round of quizzes, winners took home 50-kg bags of rice and five gallons of cooking oil. Organizers have considered increasing prize winnings to expand the appeal of the program.

Ebola awareness programs are still very much necessary in Sierra Leone, where the outbreak that began in February 2014 continues to rage. Arrests continue as individuals try to kidnap their infected loved ones from medical facilities and take them to traditional herbalists–a dangerous practice widely blamed for the intensity of this outbreak. The number of cases of Ebola in Freetown, the capital, have continued to climb, reported the BBC this week.

Making matters worse, law enforcement has discovered that burial teams have begun to bribe the families of the dead to ensure a proper burial. Taking advantage of laws that force families not to use traditional burial practices that require contact with contaminated bodily fluids, some teams have been charging up to $247 illegally to families to ensure they comply with the law. No arrests have been made, as the investigation is ongoing.

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