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How ‘Know COVID-19 Nigeria’ Is Fighting Fake News, Creating Opportunities for Youths

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Coronavirus has put the world on lockdown – creating fear, anxiety, economic downturns and drastic change in our social lives.

As I write, 199 countries are affected by the pandemic and nearly 3.5 billion people are in mandatory or voluntary confinement. In Nigeria, the virus has begun to spread at a geometric rate.

However, beyond this pandemic in an information war (lack of adequate information, Fake news, misinformation, disinformation and uneven distribution of news) that has been described as “an infodemic.”

More so, obeying the shelter-in-place order by the government has created boredom and more anxiety for many young individuals. People, most especially in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that were locked down by the President, are observing mandatory confinement to their homes.

Aside a few that their work and businesses are adaptable to teleworking, most of the people in these areas would remain idle for the next few days. This idleness would create obvious economic and psychological challenges for some.

Amidst these series of challenges, a group of young Nigerians teamed up to establish “Know COVID-19 Nigeria” to address the pressing needs that could help reduce the pandemic.

The initiative was created with the goal of ensuring the provision of adequate, relevant, reliable and relatable information, debunking fake news and providing safety, health and precautionary tips that could help people stay safe, informed and protected.

In achieving this, they are engaging young professionals in various fields like media, medicine, graphics designing, web development, public relations, data analytics, research and monitoring and evaluation, etcetera, who are volunteering their time and expertise, thereby, relieving them of boredom from staying at home as a result of the lockdown in the country.

Within a week of its establishment, Know COVID-19 have been able to directly reach and engage over 2 million Nigerians.

Debunked over 20 fake news reports on the pandemic, sensitize the public on myths and facts about the virus and shared relevant information about cases, preventive measures and medical observations and advice.

The organisation is reaching people majorly by leveraging on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

With a team of over 100 volunteers, they are distilling and interpreting data from relevant sources only, curating different stories, matrix map of victims to prevent spread and sensitizing people on coping strategies while they shelter-in-place.

WhatsApp has proven to be a relevant platform for sharing information and reaching a wide range of people. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, a great deal of misinformation (in form of articles, pictures, audios and doctored videos) have been shared via the platform.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently launched its official WhatsApp chatbot to share credible information with people. Likewise, Know COVID-19 is leveraging on the platform to reach out to people and debunk all fake information passing across. This platform has helped them reach out to more vulnerable people.

When the Ebola epidemic hit Nigeria in 2014, there was serious panic and misinformation about the virus. A lot of people followed flimsy, inaccurate and unverified information about preventive or precautionary measures.

At least, two people died from drinking and/ or bathing with salt water which was rumoured to be a preventive solution. Similarly, rumours about issues surrounding COVID-19 have been spreading across social media. Immediately after President Donald Trump’s reckless endorsement of Chloroquine as cure for COVID-19, there was an upsurge in the demand for the drug Lagos State and cases of poisoning were recorded.

To avert its widespread, Know COVID-19 engaged medical personnel to create awareness and myth-buster posters on various social media platforms.

Beyond tackling fake news, the organisation is gathering data on cases, perceptions, emotions and other relevant variables on the Coronavirus. They are building a database of information that could help researchers and scholars during and after this outbreak.

Know COVID-19 shares information through relatable graphics with pictorial designs that attract attention rather than boring long texts that get people bored. This makes them unique and attracts them to people that might not read new stories and articles from relevant sources like the World Health Organisation and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.

When young people get involved in sharing reliable information or work on productive ideas while they shelter in place, they help to reduce the spread of fake news and anxiety.

Know COVID-19 Nigeria is achieving this already; by fighting the infodemic, they contributing towards combating the pandemic.

Abdulhakeem Abdulkareem is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist. He is the Director of Research and Development and Volunteers Coordinator at Know COVID-19 Nigeria. Reach him on Twitter or LinkedIn. (Visit www.knowcovid19.ng or send an email to Hello@knowcovid19.ng for more information).


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