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Dons describe government as untrustworthy COVID-19 information actor

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A patient who is suspected of suffering from COVID-19 coronavirus undergoes testing at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital isolation centre on May 10, 2020. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has confirmed 3,912 infections and 117 deaths from the novel coronavirus. Audu MARTE / AFP


Experts have described the government as the most untrusted COVID-19 information actor, while urging that campaigns to discourage stigmatisation of COVID-19 survivors should be intensified on all information platforms.

The experts, Dr. Wole Oladapo, from University of Ibadan, Oyo State and Damilola Agbalajobi, from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Osun State maintained that another lockdown is predictable, but urged the government to put necessary measures in place to cater for the welfare of the people. They spoke at the presentation of their study on gender contentions in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings: unpacking women’s leadership, empowerment and accountability,” at Utafiti Sera Stakeholder forum, supported by Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) and Action for Empowerment and Accountability research programme (A4EA), held in Lagos.

The study explored gendered differences among residents of Lagos State in terms of sources of COVID-19 information, belief in misinformation about the virus and its compliance and preventive measures. Specifically, the report noted that the level of adherence to hand washing and face mask use was high while adherence to avoiding meeting relatives, friends, and neighbours and avoiding going to open marketplaces was low both for male and female respondents.

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The duo discovered that respondents in the two genders indicated that they would neither take COVID-19 vaccine for themselves and for their young children nor consider it efficacious enough to curb the spread of the diseases, even if their religious leaders, ministry of health or both, endorsed it.

“Female and male respondents, in comparable proportion, mostly turned to mainstream media and mediated informal platforms (social media) as first preference when in need of COVID-19 information. Radio, television and newspapers alongside social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp and Telegram thus remained most influential among the respondents.

“Overall, more than they trusted the government, the respondents trusted doctors and mainstream media actors as providers of authentic COVID-19 information, while seeing the government as an untrustworthy COVID-19 information actor,” the report noted. They described misinformation about COVID-19 as a real threat to containing the virus. “We found out that men and women believe in COVID-19 misinformation in almost equal proportion. Most people that we spoke with during the research believe that either COVID-19 is not real or its just like malaria or flu and that has a lot of implications on how we are going to end this pandemic or how we are going to respond to future health challenges of this nature.”

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