Supporting media to bust harmful myths on coronavirus disease
Abuja, 13 February 2020 – From eating garlic to gargling with mouthwash, the public space is full of information about how to prevent coronavirus disease. However, much of this is misinformation. To counter this spread of harmful rumours, the World Health Organization (WHO) is organizing workshops in many African countries to inform media professionals on the facts about COVID-19.
“There has been a lot of misinformation about the novel coronavirus out there. This workshop has empowered me with knowledge. I can now differentiate between true and false information”, said Godsgift Onyedinefu, a reporter with Business Day Newspapers in Abuja. Onyedinefu was one of 54 journalists who participated in a recent workshop, which took place in Abuja, Nigeria.
There have been no cases of coronavirus disease confirmed in any African country, but Nigeria is one of 13 top priority countries identified by WHO, which due to their direct links or high volume of travel to China need to increase their preparedness measures. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated the Coronavirus Preparedness Working group. Through this group, efforts are being made to strengthen the country’s capacity to rapidly detect and respond to COVID-19. Ongoing activities include strengthening laboratory diagnostics, implementing screening at ports of entry, increasing surveillance and improving isolation centres for managing potential patients.
The country is one of the region’s most active on social media and rumours are easily spread. WHO has documented claims such as a case of COVID-19 falsely confirmed in Lagos, the country’s economic capital or that the disease can be treated with illegal drugs.
For Dhamari Naidoo, the WHO emergency officer who conducted the training, “journalists and media are critical to getting the right messages to the community.” She urged them to ensure that accurate information was shared with the public and reminded reporters of the key role they play in preventing the spread of fake news: “There is a need for journalists to be precise and concise when sharing information to citizens. We want you to transmit the right information to the people, and to contribute in stopping the spread of rumours.”
Her message struck a chord with many of the participants.
Maliki Duro, a correspondent with Airview news said: “This is really an eye opener. The orientation will avail Nigerian journalists with first-hand information as well as enhance their capacity to accurately report information related to the outbreak.”