In 2016 — years before the COVID-19 pandemic — Cambodia launched a toll-free hotline to enlist the public in monitoring and tracking the spread of disease among both humans and animals.
People can call 115 to report outbreak signals, such as unexplained sickness in their chickens that could be bird flu — which can also infect people.
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, calls climbed from a few hundred to 18,000 per day. The hotline became the principal means of providing timely information on COVID-19 to the public and is credited for identifying 90% of early coronavirus cases in the country.
The hotline resulted from a partnership between the Cambodian Ministry of Health; Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters’ iLab Southeast Asia, a technology lab focused on social good; and Ending Pandemics, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that is a leader in participatory surveillance systems, or engaging the public in identifying disease outbreaks. COVID-19 put a spotlight on the need to prepare for pandemics. But Ending Pandemics — whose name refers to preventing future pandemics — has long been partnering with communities and governments worldwide to report on unusual events in humans, animals, and the environment to stop outbreaks. COVID-19 has led to growing interest in its work to change how countries detect and respond to pandemics.
Read the full piece at Devex.