With no cure or vaccine yet on ground, accurate and essential information delivered in the right way and at the right time is key to minimizing the deadly toll of COVID-19. Information about the nature and risks associated with the disease, mechanisms of disease spread, infected and at risk persons, preventive measures, and appropriate care and treatment measures for infected persons. Countries that appear to be on track in fighting the pandemic have weaponized vital information at various levels.
During times like these, the importance of minimizing misinformation cannot be overemphasized. In Nigeria, existing misinformation is seen by the rate at which many positive COVID-19 patients are fleeing from isolation centres, and how the vast majority of the people are not taking precautionary measures.
In Lagos for example, there were 1,037 active cases as of Friday, May 9, but only 262 beds were occupied out of the 569 bed-capacity in the state, implying that at least 800 COVID-19 positive patients are out on the streets endangering other residents. According to John Oghenehero, a medical officer: "a lot of people still do not understand how the virus is managed hence they don’t want to be stigmatised." Many people are not convinced that the disease is real and that proper supportive care is crucial to patient's recovery.
Other examples of misinformation include the rate at which many entrepreneurs are commercialising the production, sale, and resale of fabric nose masks, without regards to the guidelines of the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON). Also, not many organizations, communities and individuals seem to be abiding by guidelines and best practices detailed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
In light of these misinformed practices, there could not be a better time to bankroll TV ads and radio jingles to properly educate the people about COVID-19. Another strategy could be community-based sensitization, as opposed to door-to-door which is not quite feasible given the fast rising number of confirmed cases and funding limitations of the government.
Fortunately, organizations like Infodemics and Atelewo provides useful platform for educating citizens on COVID-19. Particularly, Infodemics is a platform providing quality information and sensitizing the citizenry about the deadly diseases. It does so by sending out questionnaires to students, teachers and communities, to determine their level of understanding of COVID-19. This compiled data helps in the appropriate dissemination of information to the most vulnerable areas.
Atelewo is another initiative that is helping to drive awareness of COVID-19 in Nigeria today, by creating contents about the virus in Yoruba language on social media platforms and holding campaigns in key locations of Ibadan.
Information is King! The bigger challenge in managing the pandemic is misinformation, and I strongly believe that the NCDC and other entities can do more in this regard.
Video credit: NCDC
Article Credit: Michael Adesanya