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Internews Program Addresses Global “Info-demic” of COVID-19

March 13, 2020

Internews is working to limit the global and regional impact of COVID-19 by building the skills of local reporters to cover complex health issues and by supporting the creation of factual information in local languages.

In Southeast Asia, with funding from UK Aid’s H2H Network and in partnership with BBC Media Action, Translators Without Borders, and Evidence Aid, Internews will work with trusted local media outlets and social media influencers, facilitating two-way communication that affected populations will need to have with their health service providers, aid agencies, and local and national governments – especially in local languages.

Supporting trusted, community-based media is a crucial part of ensuring accurate information on the coronavirus and its impact is accessible and useable. The project will focus initially on Thailand and expand to Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Read more

Responding in Real Time to Adapt Programs

Testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, March 12, Internews President and CEO Jeanne Bourgault referenced the pandemic and said, “During times like this we all experience the urgency of access to timely, relevant trusted information….  And knowing that most of the world does not have such access is what drives [Internews].” Read more

Around the world, a number of Internews projects have responded by adapting current work to address the overwhelming needs for information surrounding COVID-19.

For example in the Philippines, Internews supported the production of a series of three short videos on the ‘info-demic’ and disinformation surrounding COVID-19, based on the factchecking research of a national partner, VERA Files. Watch the videos

In India, where Internews works with Google News Initiative and Dataleads to support fact-checking efforts by local news outlets and train reporters and editors to debunk disinformation, our program trainees and partners have published more than 150 individual fact-checks on coronavirus rumours, in five Indian languages. 

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Internews works specifically with partners on Ebola reporting, the DRC Ministry of Health’s Ebola Response Coordination Unit organized a press conference, with Internews support, to provide an update on the Ebola outbreak and, for the first time, COVID-19 prevention, on March 11.

“Prevention for COVID-19 is not really different from Ebola prevention,” said Karim Benard-Dende, Internews Country Director in DRC, recognizing the universal need for trusted, reliable, local information.  “We already work with the Ministry of Health and WHO. We would use our local resources in French and Swahili, adding Lingala and Tshiluba, the other national languages, to respond to local needs as quickly as possible.”

Sharing Expertise

Internews has a unique role in supporting information that is vital to the effective delivery of global health services. Beginning with skills-building specific to reporting on HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia in the 1990s, and continuing with specialized programs addressing epidemics of Avian Flu, SARS, and Ebola, Internews has consistent methodologies designed to: engage and inform news consumers; facilitate two-way conversations that shape and change norms; and build local capacity to hold to account those who provide health products and services. Visit health.internews.org to learn more.

In a March 4 webinar aimed to support journalists covering COVID-19, Internews Global Health Media Advisor Ida Jooste joined representatives of the IFRC, World Health Organization, and BBC Media Action to offer guidance to more than 170 journalists. Listen to the webinar

Jooste and Internews’ guidance hasn’t ended with the webinar. “As a team we are engaging with [journalists] through sharing a variety of sources and resources and by responding to specific and ongoing questions, via WhatsApp groups and other channels,” she said.

“This is a real indication that journalists need guidance and they are hungry for inputs. I expect this will continue for months to come.”

(Banner photo: Credit Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)