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African Media Try to Educate Public About Ebola

  • George Putic

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. .

The World Health Organization says the current Ebola outbreak is the worst in history and will probably continue to spread for months through Western and Central Africa.

Most of the cases have occurred in remote villages, where people rely mostly on radio and television for the news.

In Ghana’s capital Accra, an announcer for the Citi 97.3 FM station reads the daily bulletin, “The deadly Ebola virus resurfaced in West Africa in February this year. Since then it has claimed more than 700 lives."

The station’s online manager, Mawuli Tsikata, says the government’s campaign to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS was much more aggressive than education about Ebola.

“In the case of Ebola you don't see anything; you just depend on what the journalists report to the public so I don't think the government is doing enough to educate the public about Ebola," Tsikata said.

The epidemic has also reached large cities, where a more affluent population has access to computers, the Internet and social media.

Blogger Japhet Omojuwa, based in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, says social media users are often some of the most influential people in the society, so reaching them can help spread the word about the danger of Ebola.

“They have access to those that are not on social media, so if they are interested, if they are made to know and understand the dangers and the risks of us not stopping Ebola from being a Nigerian issue, then they will likely get to reach their parents, their sisters, their cousins their relatives," said Omojuwa.

Social media activism against the Ebola outbreak is not confined to individual bloggers. The Nigerian group Hexavia Logistics hopes its tweets are reaching many, not only in Nigeria but other African countries as well.

General Manager Babajide Fadoju says it is unfortunate that it took an epidemic for the African public to start talking about Ebola.

“So the most important aspect of all things that we do is actually talking about it, hence talking about Ebola is one of the best things that has actually happened with the Ebola virus," said Fadoju.

The World Health Organization says it will work with affected countries and their neighbors, renewing efforts to improve communication and teach people how to avoid infection and where to seek help. African bloggers and tweeters are already doing their part.