COVID-19: WHO tasks journalists on effective communication

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Dr Geoffrey Namara, World Health Organisation (WHO) Health Emergency Information and Risk Assessment (HIM) Lead, has tasked the Nigeria media on effective communication of COVID-19.

Namara said this in Auta Belefi on Friday, during a two-day annual conference of the Association of Health Journalists (ANHEJ) in Nasarawa.

According to Namara, such approach in reporting the pandemic would guide the public to appropriately respond to the various.

In a presentation, entitled:” Understanding Key Outbreak Metrics for Accurate Reporting”, he said it was unfortunate that conspiracy theories, misinformation and other factors were preventing many Nigerians from accepting COVID-19 vaccines.

According to him, effective communication was a vital tool that guides the public towards appropriate services and treatment.

Namara urged health journalists to use the event to brainstorm with critical stakeholders on relevant information that would convince Nigerians to accept the COVID-19 vaccines.

He said: “public health is key in community awareness and the media plays a vital role in reaching the communities.

“Effective communication guides the public towards appropriate services and treatment which helps to prevent or reduce the spread of the disease.

“Misinformation poses a great threat to response efforts.

“Journalists must be equipped with relevant knowledge to ensure proper reporting in a health emergence”. he said.

He said that without testing data, efforts to stop the pandemic would not be achieved.

The Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) Dr Aminu Garba, also said Nigeria’s health system was a work in progress

Garba, represented by Dr Obinna Onuoha, Senior Programme and Partnership Officer Africa Health Budget Network, said the providing quality health for all Nigerians had been a major bane of our development.

Garba said the pandamic had been almost two years post-COVID-19 and Nigerians  were still taking steps to normalise the health system.

He said it entails the development of recovery plans and the dedication of funds to address critical areas that would bring significant improvement in the fight against the pandemic.

“Vaccination remains the best strategy to curb COVID-19. Efforts are ongoing to strengthen the diagnostic, treatment and surveillance capacities of health facilities and health institutions at all levels nationwide.

According to him, the media should stand in the frontline and centre in ensuring that all Nigerians are well-informed with the facts about COVID-19.

“The media needs to know what funding has been received and from whom; what plans the government have in place to utilize these funds to provide quality health among others.

“You should also ask, what are the checks and balances to ensure these dedicated funds offer value for money?

“Others are the steps taken to ensure that all concerned parties are held accountable in the disbursement and utilization of these funds.

“Also, what are the feedback mechanisms from the beneficiaries of these health interventions?

“What are the challenges and lessons carried forth for future reference, that we may learn from the past? Garba said.

Continuing, he said, “As health journalists, you have the mandate to ask the hard questions that no one wants to attempt, such as the type, nature and duration of funding support for every recovery plan.

“Transparency, mutual accountability, consensus and collaboration are the fruits we can expect to see when all Nigerians are well informed and presented with the facts.(NAN)

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