The World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with Facebook and South African based Praekelt.org to provide data-free information on the COVID-19 pandemic to vulnerable communities across the globe.
This is said to add a vital element to the organisation’s work to fight misinformation – and ensure everyone has access to accurate health information and resources on COVID-19.
In announcing this partnership, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Through this collaboration, we will reach some of the most vulnerable people who will be able to access lifesaving health information without any data charges in more than 50 countries”.
The collaboration makes use of Free Basics and Discover by Facebook which provides people with access to useful services on their mobile phones in markets where Internet access may be less affordable. The websites on Free Basics and Discover by Facebook – including WHO’s COVID-19 platform – are available for free without any data charges.
Based on a founding premise that access to information is a fundamental right, Praekelt.org has worked with Free Basics and Discover by Facebook for several years. Among past projects was the Praekelt.org Incubator for Free Basics with Facebook programme. The programme provided NGOs and social enterprises with the support and tools they needed to deliver content and services to poor and marginalised communities via mobile.
“After a successful WHO Health Alert launch on WhatsApp in March we are honoured to be able to continue our partnership with the World Health Organization and Facebook, to extend the accessibility of vital COVID-19 information and resources as the virus accelerates globally,” says Debbie Rogers, MD of Praekelt.org.
The July 2020 partnership between WHO, Facebook and Praekelt.org has resulted in an easy-to-navigate WHO mobile website that provides detailed advice for the public including how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, mythbusters, and how best to look after your physical and mental health.
There is also a dedicated section for healthcare workers which includes advice on the use of masks, the rights and responsibilities of health workers, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Along with up-to-date information and statistics, WHO’s COVID-19 information in Free Basics and Discover, also includes the latest WHO news as well as a selection of questions and answers that address some of the defining issues around COVID-19, including violence against women, pregnancy and childbirth and mass gatherings.
The website is being launched in English with French, Spanish and Arabic to follow in the coming weeks. Other languages will be added as they become available.