As Coronavirus swipes the world, the city of Bangui wasn’t spared by the pandemic. By the time we wrote this article, the Central African Republic registered 1,850 confirmed cases, 38 recoveries, and 5 deaths.
With the fake news phenomenon on social media, Central Africans quickly found themselves surrounded by myths and misinformation about the virus. Fake news could be found on the country’s favorite platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Understanding the issue, Martin Ben-Bala decided to do something to quash this problem.
Martin is a member of the Congolese diaspora community and one of the leaders that integrate the RELAY Community Network in Bangui. Martin tailored messages against COVID-19 fake news and alerted his people: “Do No Harm! Share only information from verified sources”. He is aware of the role of community leaders in this pandemic, which is to stop the spread of misconceptions. The most common doubts are if the virus is real or not, how the virus is spread, how to treat the disease, etc.
Therefore, Martin started to share official public news release from the Ministry of Health among his community members, friends, and family. “In Bangui, people go into hiding even with obvious COVID-19 symptoms due to fear that if they get tested, despite the result, they will die no matter what due to conspiracy theories that are terrifying them. It’s worrisome to see this happening in your immediate environment. For me, debunking these myths is not only a matter of moral duty but also a security measure for me and my community”, said Martin.