Accurate, timely information critical in managing epidemics- WHO

ZANZIBAR: OFFICERS from the Zanzibar Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) emphasised the importance of providing accurate and timely information on outbreaks and diseases to prevent negative impacts on society.

This emphasis was made at the Zanzibar Beach Resort Hotel, where WHO, in collaboration with the Zanzibar Ministry of Health, organised a one-day seminar on ‘Infodemic Management’ for journalists and Community Health Volunteers (CHV) in Unguja Island.

Dr Salim Nassir Slim, Director of the Preventive Services and Health Education Department at the Zanzibar Ministry of Health, who officiated the opening of the seminar, underscored the need to provide simple, effective, and accurate information to enhance public knowledge, awareness, and confidence in handling outbreaks.

“CHV and journalists have a crucial role in communicating accurate information to the public. It is important to verify information before disseminating it,” Dr Slim said, expressing gratitude to WHO for their support in the training.

Dr Slim highlighted the power of timely information, citing an example of how it helped the health ministry control a measles outbreak that claimed the lives of 16 children.

“While it is unfortunate that these children died from a preventable disease, we are glad that we were able to control measles,” he said.

He assured journalists of the health officers’ full cooperation in providing correct information. He also mentioned that the government has been working to improve the welfare of Community Health Volunteers and that their future looks promising.

Mr Bakar Hamad Magarawa, Health Education Manager, emphasised the importance of accurate and timely information on preventing or managing the spread of viruses like Cholera, Ebola, Covid-19, and other diseases like measles.

He also stressed the significance of knowing how to treat symptoms and when to seek medical care.

Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Officer, Ms Jaliath Rangi Communication Officer from WHO and Mr Mkama Murijarubi facilitated presentations on addressing the harms of infodemics and health misinformation in different roles.

Some journalists and CHV expressed gratitude to WHO and the Ministry of Health for the timely and important training, which helps prevent the use and dissemination of ‘fake news’ that misinforms the public about outbreaks and other diseases.

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