Cameroon is one of the African countries worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and has been struggling against misinformation and fake news on the virus. Cameroon’s digital first responders have taken to social media to counteract the misinformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has flooded Cameroon’s health workers with questions about the virus and about false rumors that hospitals are overwhelmed, and that testing is either not available or costly.
The director of Cameroon’s National Social Insurance Fund Hospital, Professor Anne Njom Nlend, took to Twitter to counteract the fake news and remind the public that testing is free.
She says it’s a channel for information. When someone has a lot of followers, says Nlend, the effect of the tweet can go a long way. It helps the community.
The United Nations in May launched Verified, a plan to promote digital first responders like Professor Nlend to fight misinformation on the coronavirus.
In Cameroon, ICT Media Strategies created Smart Click Africa and COVID19.cm to remind the public to check news sources on information about the virus.
Beaugas-Orain Djoyum, the director of the media group, said "the first question to ask is, who is posting the information? Is the person posting the information a resourceful person? You have to go to the profile to find out if the publisher is a doctor, and if the person usually posts verified and verifiable information."
The editor of Cameroon’s Mosaiques newspaper, Parfait Tabapsi, says the counter-disinformation efforts are helping, especially when experts like Professor Nlend are involved.
He says the professor is, first of all, a professor of medicine, which is something very important. She is also responsible for a hospital unit in Cameroon’s capital, notes Tabapsi. These are the two reasons why when you would need some (medical) information, he says, you would take a look at her side.
Professor Nlend, who is also the president of the Cameroon Society of Pediatrics, plans to expand her role as a digital first responder to debunk disinformation on maternal and child health.