UNICEF reaches nearly 150 million people with information on COVID-19 across the Middle East and North Africa
Joint efforts ongoing to combat the “info-demic” of false news and fake information on COVID-19 and increase engagement with communities
AMMAN, 21 May 2020 – Nearly 150 million people, a third of the region’s population, were reached with information to help them combat COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa in the past eight weeks.
“In this day and age, credible information has become lifesaving. We are leaving no stone unturned to reach millions of people in the region on a regular basis and encourage them to engage and play a role in information sharing as a way to combat false news and fake information” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
UNICEF is supporting countries’ efforts across the region, and working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, to provide accurate information and create opportunities for engagement around COVID-19 symptoms, handwashing and other hygiene practices, healthy eating habits, physical spacing and social distancing, quarantine and isolation guidelines, tips for parents, mental and physical health including practical measures to address anxiety and stress and encouraging messages on physical spacing and staying home where needed. UNICEF provides information in Arabic and other languages spoken in the region including Farsi and Kurdish. Material in local dialects, English, French is available. In addition, information aimed at migrants and expatriate workers is produced available in Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog and Bangla.
The information is disseminated through all available media across the region. This includes local and regional television, radio channels and newspapers, online through special web pages on the internet and on social media including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and TikTok. In addition, engagement with key influencers is underway with community and religious leaders, health workers and celebrities like actors, musicians and athletes. Printed material and handouts are distributed in pharmacies and grocery shops. Information is attached to humanitarian assistance given to communities in need. To reach vulnerable families in remote areas especially those with no or limited access to the internet, mobile devices or television, UNICEF is providing printed material, conducting house-to-house visits and using megaphones in neighborhoods as well as in places of worship like mosques and churches. UNICEF is encouraging communities to get involved and engaged, through providing feedback and taking action in combating rumours and false information and promoting the messages and information themselves.
“It is critical that people around the region use information coming from credible sources only and that they are able to provide feedback and take part in efforts to combat false news and mis-information. When communities and individuals promote correct information, it builds trust and a sense of collective action and responsibility. We will continue to do everything we can to strengthen the tools to provide parents and children with information to stay well and healthy now and in the future” concluded Chaiban.
Notes to editors
Throughout the region, UNICEF is working with partners including ministries, the World Health Organization, foundations, NGOs, and the private sector to coordinate and reinforce national mechanisms for Risk Communication and Community Engagement. Below are highlights of the efforts:
- In Algeria, UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Health and WHO is reaching nearly 2 million people on a daily basis since mid-March through national TV and an additional 14 million people through social media with messages on COVID-19 prevention, misinformation and child protection from online exploitation.
- In Egypt, UNICEF COVID-19 campaigns reached nearly 35 million people on hygiene, health, social isolation, physical spacing, combatting misinformation and stigma, psychosocial support and nutrition. UNICEF launched a video with its National Ambassador, renowned actress Mona Zaki in support of health workers on social media, reaching more than 1.6 million users so far.
- In Iran, UNICEF reached 1.7 million people through multimedia posts and infographics on UNICEF’s social media channels, including Instagram, Twitter, and the website. All information was translated to Farsi.
- In Iraq, UNICEF in partnership with telecommunication operators reached 6 million people across the country, and an additional 3 million people in the Kurdistan Region with mobile messaging on COVID-19 prevention. UNICEF posted and shared videos for influencers with informative messages that have reached over 10 million people which is 28% of Iraq’s total population.
- In Jordan a country of 10 million people, in two weeks alone, UNICEF reached 7 million people through social media platforms, between 3.5 to 5 million people on the WhatsApp, 3.2 million listeners on radios and additional 1.5 million viewers on daily basis through TV channels. UNICEF supported the Ministry of Culture’s competition, of which in two weeks only, 27,000 entries were received, 1 million people reached and 40,000 people engaged. Nearly 2,000 educators at the Ministry of Awqaf reached 170,000 people across Jordan through their network.
- In Lebanon, UNICEF has reached 80% of the population with COVID-19 messages through national TVs and social media, including Arabic sign language videos and a campaign to address fake news in partnership with the Ministry of Information and UN partners. UNICEF has a leading role for Risk Communication and Community Engagement and is supporting coordination efforts among partners from the government, UN agencies and NGOs, to multiply and enhance the reach to the most vulnerable communities and the public.
- In Libya, UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the National Center for Disease Control reached nearly 1 million people in 22 municipalities and around 600 dental health-care workers in 66 dental clinics with materials and key messages on Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for dental settings during COVID-19.
- In Oman, UNICEF developed prevention messages aimed at reaching expatriate workers in Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog and Bangla. UNICEF amplified prevention messages through Government’s channels reaching 4.6 million people.
- In the State of Palestine, and in partnership with WHO and the Ministry of Health UNICEF launched a campaign focusing on healthy eating habits during the Holy Month of Ramadan and disseminated material reaching nearly 4 million people using social media, mass media, mobile phone messages, and on-ground health promotion.
- In Sudan, UNICEF reached nearly 31 million people with information on COVID-19 prevention and access to services through 20 online newspapers, 13 daily newspapers, and WhatsApp. In South Kordofan, support was provided to the State Ministry of Health to produce messages in local languages and dialects. In White Nile, Blue Nile and Sennar states, over 1.2 million people were reached through megaphone announcements; Additionally, 240,500 people were reached through announcements in mosques in Sennar and White Nile.
- In Syria, UNICEF reached over 1 million people with posters and stickers, including stickers on bread packs, and engaging over 1,000 religious leaders to disseminate COVID-19 prevention messages through 3,600 religious institutions. In cooperation with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF is using food distribution points to reach nearly 3 million people with soap and information recreational kits and colouring books for children.
- In Tunisia, UNICEF with the Ministry of Health is promoting the national government-led hotline to raise awareness and provide psychological support to the general public. Nearly 70,000 calls were received in two weeks. UNICEF launched a campaign against stigmatization of people affected while another hotline dedicated for families, children and adolescents is now in place.
- In Yemen, nearly 16 million people were reached through radio and television discussion programmes, news alerts, public service announcements, drama shows, and Radio and TV flashes and spots, while over 13.5 million subscribers were reached through short mobile messages (SMS) and voice messages. Additionally, nearly 900,000 people were reached through nearly 150,000 house-to-house visits and awareness sessions in 38 quarantine centres, while nearly 1.8 million people were reached through 19,452 awareness sessions in mosques.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.