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As part of efforts to combat infodemic challenging the fight against the spread of Corona virus, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has launched a free SMS based interactive chatbot.
The chatbot launched with support from UNICEF’s UReport platform is to provide accurate and timely information on COVID-19 to Nigerians.
It is to serve as an additional medium to access validated, vetted and accurate information about COVID-19 and government’s efforts to control the pandemic.
The development is driven by NCDC’s responsibility as a National Public Health Institute to provide information which can reduce the risk of infection.
NCDC his hitherto been engaging Nigerians through a website dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as an ongoing communications campaign with the theme #TakeResponsibility.
Over 64,000 cases of COVID-19 have so far been recorded across Nigeria while no fewer than 50,000,000 have been confirmed globally.
The Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the centre is leveraging on integrating further into technology for communication with the introduction of the chatbot.
“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.
“The chat bot can be accessed for free across all networks via SMS by sending the word ‘coronavirus’ to the shortcode 24453. Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp users can send the word ‘Coronavirus’ to +2349087401607 as well as via the UReport platform on Facebook via @ureportnigeria respectively,” Ihekweazu explained.
He urged the public to remain aware of the risks of COVID-19 and to adhere to the preventive measures advised by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Federal Ministry of Health.
On his part, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, said “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 corona virus pandemic.”