Windhoek – The Ministry of Health and Social Services, with support from the United States, launched an updated website and a social media campaign focusing on providing correct information and countering fake news around COVID-19 vaccines and the pandemic. Online and messenger platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been identified as powerful influencers of the public when it comes to COVID-19 in both positive and negative ways.
“Although Namibia’s infection numbers are currently low, we all know that COVID-19 has not disappeared. New variations and future waves cannot be ruled out. We need to be prepared as a nation and as individuals – and science tells us that best prepared are those who are vaccinated,” said Acting USAID Country Representative Nicole Miller. “With just over 28% of the population vaccinated in Namibia, we have a long way to go to get to the 70% vaccination rate recommended by the World Health Organization.”
“We are incredibly proud of the joint communications work we have done together with our development cooperation partners to create platforms that are meant to spread correct information to the public and limit the spread of false information. Although the ‘Infodemic’ cannot be stopped, it can be managed through campaigns and collaborations like these,” highlighted the Ministry of Health and Social Services’ Executive Director Ben Nangombe.
The United States has committed over US$20 million (approx. N$350 million) in support of the national COVID emergency response with the aim to reduce the impact of COVID-19 infection, and to encourage Namibians to get vaccinated to protect themselves from hospitalization or death.
Specifically, through the RISE project, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the Ministry of Health and Social Services to analyze social media content, develop a new COVID-19 component of the Ministry’s website, and launch a social media campaign addressing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. These activities complement those led by development partners such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WHO, and UNICEF.
At the launch event in Windhoek, the Ministry also presented awards to journalists from various local media houses as a token of appreciation for using their stories to promote facts and raise awareness around COVID-19 vaccines. Journalists have played a big role in articulating and projecting the truth and made pandemic coverage a priority. “COVID vaccines work and are safe! They protect you and your loved ones,” reiterated Miller.
The United States has provided extensive assistance to Namibia since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, providing technical support to all pillars of the response from infection and prevention control to laboratory and case management, and making substantial donations in the form of donating and distributing thousands of vaccine doses, providing ICU beds, equipment such as centrifuges, biosafety cabinets, refrigerators, freezers, sequencing equipment, testing supplies and accessory equipment, reagents, and personal protective equipment, and funding oxygen generation plants for various public hospitals throughout the country. More than 4,000 people have died in Namibia of COVID-19.