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COVID-19: NCDC holds workshop on Infodemic Management in Ogun state

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As part of efforts to strengthen infodemic management systems in Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), organised a workshop on Infodemic Management, in Abeokuta, Ogun state.

The Director-General (DG), NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, on Thursday in Abeokuta, at a three-day training, said the event was to support the state’s pandemic preparedness and mitigate misinformation and disinformation around the current COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NCDC, as part of its plans to establish and strengthen Infodemic Management across the country, with support from the Global Fund country grant to Nigeria, is rolling out sub-national training on Infodemic management structures and systems for COVID-19, and other priority diseases, including Lassa Fever, Polio, Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Monkeypox, and Yellow fever across 12 states.

Adetifa, who was represented by Mr Micheal Okali, Health Education Officer at NCDC, said that the training revolved around building capacity to address misinformation and rumours that accompany public health events.

He noted that the state educators and health workers would also study the role of fact-checking tools to tackle fake news on infectious diseases.

An infodemic is a too much information, including false or misleading information, in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak.

“The participants, representing identified stakeholders from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the media in Ogun state, will complete the highlighted modules of the training, to refine their skills and ensure they will be able to train others, according to the project’s specific objectives in recognition of the growing threats around misinformation in the country,“ he said.

The NCDC DG said there is a need for national coordination of the response to infodemics, particularly, around basic issues such as the coordinated and integrated methods to manage the flow of information for maximum positive impact.

“To fill these gaps, both an overview and a detailed understanding of the distribution and sharing of information are crucial, clarifying where it comes from; how it propagates; who receives and shares it; and how we can expect it to evolve as threats.”

Dr Festus Soyinka, Director of Public Health, Ogun State Ministry of Health, said that the training focused on how the state, communities and individuals were managing public health and social measures by maintaining what’s working while addressing challenges that still lie ahead on infectious diseases.

Soyinka said that the COVID-19 infodemic is having a significant impact on people’s everyday lives.

“By the end of this training, the health workers will be able to improve info-surveillance on COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria among other diseases; identify several Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) tactics for managing uncertainty.

“It identified several elements of public trust related to agencies responding to public health emergencies, and identified several mechanisms to use for listening and engaging stakeholders and communities,” he said.

Also speaking, Ms Racheal Abujah, Snr. Health Correspondent, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said that as part of efforts to strengthen infodemic management systems in the country, NAN has been supporting the NCDC national infodemic management team to review weekly trends reports.

Abujah said that the efforts have helped to focus the Media’s support for tackling health misinformation and building resilience to misinformation among the populace.

According to her, during the peak period of COVID-19, journalists discursively placed themselves in a responsible but vulnerable position within the communication ecology, not solely as a result of the pandemic but also of environmental conditions that long preceded it.

She said that Journalists found their reporting difficult during the pandemic and sought to mitigate the forces challenging their work as they sought to reverse the flow of misinformation.

She said that the Infodemic management team in Nigeria leverages the pivotal role of freedom of expression and access to information to address information needs in times of COVID-19 and to tackle the massive wave of disinformation which threatened to impact democracy, sustainable development and stability across the country.

Mr Onaeko Oluwawemimo, Director, Environmental Health and Management, Ogun State Ministry of Environment, said that Infodemic management is relatively a new trend in public health capacity building aimed at serving inaccurate information from accurate and needed relevant information on diseases to reduce its negative impact on health behaviour.

Oluwawemimo said that the training is worthwhile, and timely and should be supported for cascading for more rumour generation for effective government interventions and decisions.

“Our appreciation to developing partners, NCDC, stakeholders and other trainees for their efforts to build our capacity with esteemed facilitators and the entire trainees for our time and commitment. We say a big thanks to you all,” he said.

NAN recalls that the selected states at the workshop were, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Oyo, and Plateau.

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