Coronavirus (851) Armed with social media, Zimbabwean youth fight coronavirus 'infodemic'

23 July, 2020

Extracts from a news item below. Full text: https://news.trust.org/item/20200723041330-fqvs7/

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JOHANNESBURG/BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, July 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Drinking alcohol will kill the coronavirus. It is OK to share face masks. Africans cannot get COVID-19. The pandemic is not even real. These are some of the coronavirus myths that a team of 20 Zimbabwean youth have been busting online since the country's lockdown began in late March, using social media and radio shows to reach an estimated 100,000 people to date.

"There is a common saying that 'ignorance is bliss'. Well, in this instance, ignorance is not bliss, if anything ignorance is death," said Bridget Mutsinze, 25, a volunteer based in the capital, Harare...

To stem the spread of the disease, Zimbabwean youth working with development charity Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) have taken to Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and radio to comb through online comments, identify and correct COVID-19 misinformation...

Across the continent, 86% of Africans aged 18-24 own a smartphone and nearly 90% use it for social media, according to a survey by the South African-based Ichikowitz Family Foundation...

Using information provided by the WHO, the volunteers went online to dispel misconceptions, inviting hundreds of Zimbabweans to WhatsApp groups as well as Twitter and Facebook conversations...

"It takes a lot of courage and guts to denounce fake news," said Terrence Makusha, 28, a VSO volunteer from Masvingo, a city in southeastern Zimbabwe.

Being called a know-it-all and accused of oversaturating people with information means the volunteers have to face criticism and even threats as they devise new ways to communicate, such as sending videos of songs about fake news.

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Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org