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Google donates $1mn to UNICEF in fight against Zika

Thu 3 Mar 2016

Google released a blog post today outlining its new projects to support the fight against Zika, with specialist mapping technologies and comprehensive information and public health alerts about the virus.

Google notes that it has seen a 3,000% increase in global searches for Zika since November (see below), as concern about the Latin American outbreak rises around the world. Health officials have linked the virus with birth defects and rare neurological conditions, and have predicted an estimated four million people in the Americas will be infected by the end of 2016. Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the disease a global public health emergency.

The search giant announced that it has established a new partnership with UNICEF to build an open source tool for mapping the global spread of the mosquito-borne virus, and identifying potential outbreak zones. The company plans to set up a new team of engineers, data scientists and designers to work alongside the charity, to help it organise the data to make it more comprehensive for the public, government bodies and other non-profit organisations.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 10.00.23Google hopes that the platform, which will collect data from a range of sources, such as weather and travel feeds, will support governments and NGOs in anticipating outbreaks and planning resource allocation more efficiently.

The company also announced a $1 million (approx. £711,000) grant for UNICEF – a fund which will be channelled into supporting the development of rapid diagnostics and vaccines, reducing mosquito populations in affected areas, and raising widespread awareness.

Google will be launching its own dedicated web campaign to raise awareness in the wider internet community, providing detailed information about Zika. Search results on the virus are already available in 16 languages, as well as facts about related symptoms.

In addition, the Mountain View-based company said that it has joined up with YouTube creators and channels across Latin America, such as Sesame Street and Brazilian physician Drauzio Varella, to support the awareness campaign via the video platform.

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