WHO launches ‘infodemic alliance’ to fight COVID-19 misinformation in Africa

Yusuff Moshood

The World Health Organisation African Region has launched the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance Network to tackle the challenge of misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, announced the new alliance on Thursday, in a virtual press conference on the official Twitter handle of the regional body @WHOAFRO.

The alliance, she said, is the first of its kind to bring together intergovernmental and governmental organisations as well as non-state actors across the continent.

“The alliance members have spent considerable time formulating a shared vision and defined way of working so that we can hit the ground running.

“In Africa and globally, we have faced an unprecedented dual challenge in the response to COVID-19.

“We are fighting a highly infectious dangerous virus and highly dangerous misinformation.

“Addressing this new challenge and creating this alliance has not been a mean feat,” she said.

Tackling the challenge of COVID-19 misinformation, Dr. Moeti said, must be a fundamental part of curbing the viral pandemic because there are lots of misconceptions about the disease in the continent.

“The news of coronavirus has many people on edge and from social media to street corners, people are hearing conspiracy theories and rumours of the origin of the virus, its mode of transmission and its severity.

“Misinformation harms people’s physical and mental health. It increases stigma and anxiety and it threatens precious cases and reduces adherence to safety measures like the wearing of masks,” she said.

The WHO regional director stressed that during health emergencies, people need proven, scientific facts to make informed decisions about their wellbeing, adding that the alliance would help provide authentic information about COVID-19.

“Through this new alliance, we would work with fact-checkers and the media to correct conspiracy theories and rumours, and working with technical experts ensure people can access accurate and technical information.

“This is all the more important as cases this month are increasing in around half of the countries in the African region and countries are preparing for the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines,” she said

Dr. Moeti while reiterating that accurate information would help saves more lives, says that the WHO through collective actions with the media and technical experts can help stop ‘infodemic’ and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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