Youth volunteers have been playing an important role in curbing misinformation about the coronavirus.
“Drinking water frequently will wash the coronavirus out of our system,” proclaimed a post I saw some time ago on Facebook. Quite wary about such statements, I immediately checked to see whether it was a fact or a myth. My suspicions were proven correct – it wasn’t true at all. The first thing I thought about right after this was the necessity of filtering facts from fakes. I believe fear spreads faster than facts, so it is crucial to stay informed about the virus by looking towards only trusted sources.
I believe youth and social media wield a lot of power today: When used strategically, social media can influence a wide section of the population, while the youth, who are active on social media, can act as influencers. During any health crisis, such as the one we’re going through, the role of young people is critical in fighting fake news and spreading positive messages.
How was the campaign launched?
On 19 March, colleagues from UNDP, UNV, WHO, UNICEF and UNRCO held a brief meeting on how the youth could be mobilized to spread authentic information to combat the coronavirus. We then decided to launch a campaign titled 'Volunteers for Action against COVID-19' (#V4ActionNepal) under the United Nations in Nepal.
After the meeting, I posted a status on social media asking whether anyone would be interested in joining an online campaign to tackle the virus and the misinformation surrounding it. Surprisingly, 105 volunteers (15 from each province) contacted me within two hours. The list had increased by the next day. At first, we shared fundamental information about COVID-19 with the volunteers to make sure they understood all the basic preventive measures. Then, we informed them about the rapidly spreading rumors that needed to be stopped.
How are the volunteers being mobilized?
The volunteers are doing their part to debunk myths and spread messages approved by the WHO from the confines of their houses. They are urging people to take care of themselves, their families and their communities by staying home and following instructions. The volunteers recorded video messages in Nepali and several other local languages, including Nepal Bhasa, Maithili and Bhojpuri, and uploaded them to their social media handles using the hashtags #V4ActionNepal and #Covid19Nepal to reach a wider audience.
The volunteers also supported us in tracking rumors via a survey form. In addition, they are being mobilized to report the socio-economic impacts of the lockdown in their communities.
The way forward
We will be organizing a series of webinars with the volunteers to learn about the situations in their communities, and then explore ways to address those issues. The lockdown has also impacted mental health, an area that should not be neglected. Therefore, we plan to mobilize our volunteers to focus on the issue, and we then intend to design our programmes accordingly.
The volunteers are doing their best to keep their families, relatives and communities safe from the risk of this pandemic.
They are making sure that people do not panic because of rumors.
They are ensuring that people in their networks stay informed and aware.
Are you interested in helping fight this pandemic by joining the V4ActionNepal campaign? Please feel free to send your name, address, email and mobile number to email@example.com
This is the time to show the power of youth and the strength of social media. Encourage people to take basic precautions, such as washing hands regularly, keeping a distance from others and staying home. Simple actions like these can help limit the spread of the coronavirus.