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NCDC and UNICEF launch chatbot to combat COVID-19 misinformation in Nigeria

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), with support from UNICEF, through the U-Report platform, has launched an SMS-based interactive chatbot to provide Nigerians with timely and accurate information on COVID-19.  

Currently, over 65,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Nigeria, with over 50,000,000 confirmed globally.

One of our NCDC’s key responsibilities, as Nigeria’s National Public Health Institute, is to provide Nigerians with timely and accurate information to reduce their risk of infection. This has been done through a website dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an ongoing communications campaign with the theme #TakeResponsibility.

NCDC’s efforts have formed the cornerstone of public health messaging on the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. The NCDC’s communications approach has leveraged social media, mainstream media and other avenues to encourage Nigerians to take responsibility for protecting themselves and loved ones and preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

The new COVID-19 chatbot will serve as a crucial additional medium to access validated, vetted and accurate information about COVID-19 and the government’s efforts to control the pandemic.  

According to the Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, “At NCDC, we always leverage opportunities to use technological solutions to enhance the delivery of our mandate. Technology has been critical for strengthening our public health response to COVID-19. This interactive chatbot is a welcome initiative that will be integrated into existing technology deployed for communication at the NCDC. We are grateful to UNICEF and partners for supporting our efforts to provide Nigerians with prompt and reliable information on the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, said “COVID-19 is not to be taken lightly and needs to be discussed factually and accurately. We need to guard against misinformation to help save lives. The new chatbot is a useful tool that provides vetted and accurate information and response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

U-Report is an innovative mobile social monitoring platform for community participation to address issues that matter to young people. It is designed to give young people a chance to voice their opinions on issues in their communities, encourage citizen-led development and create a positive change. The chatbot can be accessed for free across all networks via SMS by sending the word “coronavirus” to the shortcode 24453. Also, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp users can send the word “Coronavirus” to +234 908 740 1607 and via the U-Report platform on Facebook, via @ureportnigeria. 

The NCDC, under the guidance of the Federal Ministry of Health, remains strongly committed to protecting the health of Nigerians. The NCDC urges the public to remain aware of the risks of COVID-19 and to adhere to the preventive measures advised by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Federal Ministry of Health.   

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