Coronavirus (956) Who to trust and how to overcome COVID-19 misinformation in Nigeria

30 August, 2020

Extracts below from a feature article on Nigeria Health Watch, and a comment from me. Read online:


By Paul Adepoju (Lead Writer)

If there is a lesson that COVID-19 has taught stakeholders about public health misinformation in Nigeria and probably elsewhere, it is that a sentiment-laden blend of distrust and religion, and a number of traditional beliefs could get people who are expected to know better, to jettison commonsense, temporarily or permanently, and consider or fully embrace misinformation, disinformation and fake news...

Nigeria is a highly religious country and it is well documented that many citizens trust Muslim and Christian clerics or other religious leaders more than the government. It is the reason why a pregnant woman may choose to give birth in a faith home, instead of a health facility. It is also the reason why a pregnant woman in need of an emergency caesarean section may refuse to have one because her pastor said she should give birth like a Hebrew woman. It is also the reason why a man living with HIV may stop taking his antiretroviral drugs because his pastor said he has been healed or a woman diagnosed with breast cancer will turn down a mastectomy and chemotherapy, applying anointing oil instead on the metastasized lump that may eventually put her life at risk...

Africa Check and Nigeria Health Watch have sought to address misinformation. However, other government institutions should also play their part in providing additional avenues and innovatively open new channels to engage correct misinformation...

If misinformation is being addressed from multiple fronts, and facts are being disseminated widely, truth stands a better chance of winning. Because in the face of the facts, misinformation crumbles.

What other misinformation around COVID-19 have you heard? How have you sought to debunk this misinformation? Let us know @nighealthwatch on Twitter. Use the hashtag #HealthFactCheckNaija


COMMENT (NPW): As usual, this is quality journalism from Nigeria Health Watch. The role of governments in addressing misinformation is vitally important. In some countries, heads of state are actually a major cause of misinformation. Several years ago HIFA and the New York Law School published a white paper that concluded that governments have a responsibility - under international hiuman rights law - to ensure access to reliable healthcare information for their people. This same principle is (in my view) equally applicable to governments' obligations with regard to protecting people from misinformation.

I other government institutions should also play their part in providing additional avenues and innovatively open new channels to engage correct misinformation

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: