Chew bitter kola. Drink bleach. Bathe in salt water. Drink salt water. Get nano silver the “magic Ebola drug.”
These are just some examples of the kinds of misinformation and fake news that were flying around during Nigeria’s Ebola outbreak.
And they were all harmful.
Let’s look at the example of drinking salt water.
There was a text/Whatsapp message going viral during the outbreak that read, “Please ensure that you and your family and all your neighbors bathe with hot water and salt before daybreak today because of Ebola virus which is spreading through the air.’’
Imagine, in a country like Nigeria where we already have a high prevalence of hypertension (high blood pressure) people were bathing in and drinking salt water because they truly believed it would preserve their lives. Yet in reality it was making their existing health conditions worse.
They were unknowingly harming themselves because of fake news.
This is why we were so excited to participate in Africa Check’s Fake News That Harms workshop in Abuja. The theme was Tackling Health Misinformation.
But what is health misinformation? It falls into 10 categories:
Our MD Niniola Soleye spoke about how dangerous fake news is, especially when there is an outbreak or public health crisis.
She shared how rumours and fake news create new challenges during outbreaks that have to be dealt with on top of the already existing challenges of fighting against a fast-spreading deadly virus like Ebola for example.
Speaking on the experiences from her community health work with DRASA, she also emphasized, “often the misinformation people see and believe comes from those closest to them – people they trust and love.”
We look forward to supporting some of the solutions proposed during the workshop. Check out more pictures from the workshop in the gallery below.