By Henry Uche
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) through the UReport platform, has launched an SMS based interactive chatbot to provide Nigerians with timely and accurate information on COVID-19.
A statement delivered by the Centre revealed that currently, over 64,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Nigeria, with
over 50,000,000 confirmed globally.
According to the statement, NCDC reiterated that one of its key responsibilities as Nigeria’s National Public Health institute is to provide Nigerians with timely and accurate information to reduce their risk of infection.
It stressed that this task has been carried out through a website
dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as an ongoing communications campaign
with the theme: #TakeResponsibility” which have formed the cornerstone of public health messaging on the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
“Our communications approach has
leveraged social media, mainstream media and all other avenues to encourage Nigerians to take responsibility for protecting themselves and loved ones and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“This new COVID-19 chatbot will serve as an additional medium to access validated, vetted and accurate information about COVID-19 and government’s efforts to
control the pandemic,” the statement reads.
In the statement, the Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, was quoted as saying, “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.”
Responding, the representative of UNICEF- Nigeria Peter Hawkins, noted, “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.”
UReport 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 chat bot 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 +2349087401607 as well as via the UReport platform on facebook @ureportnigeria respectively.