The above summary table is based on preliminary analyses of the commitments provided to PMNCH. Each commitment can be found below.
Since the beginning of the outbreak over a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has gravely affected our societies and economies. Likewise, it has deeply disrupted the lives of billions of people across the globe, including the way we consume, produce, and react to information. Thanks to new technologies, we have been able to widely disseminate knowledge and evidence on this new disease. However, social media platforms have also been the carriers of falsehoods and distortions.
Underlining that the world is facing a rapid amplification and circulation of accurate but also false information, the UN Secretary-General and the Director-General of the World Health Organization both declared that we are currently fighting an infodemic in the same way as we are fighting a pandemic. An infodemic is defined as a tsunami of information—some accurate, some not—that spreads alongside an epidemic. If it is not managed accordingly, an infodemic can have direct negative impacts on the health of populations and the public health response by undermining the trust in science and interventions. We are also seeing that infodemics hinder the cohesiveness of societies by increasing existing social inequities, stigma, gender disparity and generation rift.
Although infodemics are not a new phenomenon, the volume and rapid scale-up of facts, but also misinformation and disinformation, surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak are unprecedented. Owing to the opportunities and challenges brought by new technologies and social media platforms, the infodemic that accompanies the first pandemic of the digital age is more visible and challenging than ever before. Practicing information hygiene, just as we are practicing hand and cough hygiene, is thus becoming vital to prevent the spread of the virus.
This overflow of information knows no boundaries and affects our physical as well as our digital spaces. By acting together to improve infodemic management online and offline and advocating for continued solidarity, we believe that we can help our communities and those most vulnerable adopt healthy behaviors. As outlined in the Resolution on COVID-19 adopted by consensus at the 73rd World Health Assembly and the G20 Health Ministers’ Declaration at the Riyadh Summit, we need to provide populations with reliable and comprehensive information on COVID-19 and take measures to counter misinformation and disinformation.
The response to this infodemic demands the support, development, and application of efficient solutions that equip individuals and their communities with the knowledge and
tools to promote accurate health information (upstream) and mitigate the harm that misinformation and disinformation causes (downstream). Fully aware of the limits of top-down approaches, we call upon the implementation of interventions that engage with, listen to, inform, and empower people so that they can make decisions to protect themselves and others.
Deeply concerned with the undermining consequences of the current infodemic to the COVID-19 response and acknowledging the great potential for improved risk communication through new tools, we hereby call on key stakeholders and the global community to commit to undertaking the following actions:
- Recognize that an infodemic is a tsunami of information—some accurate, some not—that spreads alongside an epidemic and note that it cannot be eliminated but it can be managed.
- Acknowledge that infodemic management can reduce the direct and indirect negative impacts on the health of populations, as well as growing mistrust towards governments, science, and health personnel which has fueled the polarization of societies.
- Emphasize that everyone has a role to play in addressing the infodemic.
- Support a whole-of-society approach and engage with communities in the production, verification, and dissemination of information that leads to healthy behaviors during epidemics and pandemics.
- Commit to finding solutions and tools, consistent with the freedom of expression, to manage the infodemic embedding the use of digital technologies and data science.
- Strive to make science more accessible, transparent, and understandable, maintain trusted sources of information and promote evidence-informed policies thereby fostering people’s trust in them.
- Learn from the COVID-19 infodemic management practices and share experience on value-added partnerships.
We encourage other organizations and individuals to join the World Health Organization in making these commitments and holding ourselves accountable to them by signing this statement of commitment.
Please join us by signing this manifesto by submitting this electronic form here: Manifesto
‘Civil Society’ is not homogenous and does not encompass a singular view, however, we, as civil society representatives and advocates, come together around a shared interest and purpose - to advocate for a community-led approach to halt the spread of the COVID-19 Infodemic.
To help mitigate the impacts of and develop resilience to the COVID-19 Infodemic (and future infodemics), the 3rd Global Infodemic Management Conference has asked us, as ‘civil society’ representatives, to engage in dialogue, as well as discuss and commit to necessary actions that will enable individuals and communities globally to mitigate the dangerous effects of infodemics.
Though we are a diverse group geographically, linguistically, culturally and professionally, we share similar challenges when it comes to infodemic management within our respective communities. Throughout the first workshop we discussed, debated, and analysed the multitude of challenges faced by ‘civil society’ across the globe. While consolidating our list of challenges to the top three was not an easy task, we have worked collaboratively to find consensus around the following challenges, which we believe must be addressed in order to manage the COVID-19 Infodemic and mitigate its re-emergence in future pandemics.
- Challenge 1: A lack of timely, accessible, credible, verifiable, and contextualized information in a variety of local languages and formats (ex: digital and non-digital) from local, regional and global actors makes it difficult for factual information to reach intended audiences and creates opportunities for disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation to thrive. We struggle to tailor information for the diverse communities we serve. From a refugee camp in Greece to a rural village in Malaysia, we must find a way to contextualise at a micro level - translating language and science through the correct geographical and cultural lens and making it accessible to a diverse set of people.
- Challenge 2: Mistrust in government and global health agencies is pervasive and proliferating due to uncoordinated and at times misleading or even false information. Trust is earned through meaningful engagement, action, and accountability, not merely through top-down or one-way communication. Individuals and communities across the globe, from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere, and in between, are increasingly skeptical of health messages from institutions they are meant to trust most: their governments, global public health authorities, and healthcare professionals. How do we support communities and governments to rebuild trust and ultimately instill confidence in evidence-based health communication?
- Challenge 3: Making information available is insufficient in addressing the barriers that communities, especially those that are marginalized and excluded, experience in accessing, understanding, and co-creating knowledge and content. Low health, digital, media, and information literacy and capacities make it difficult to access and reach our intended audience. Technical and inaccessible language make it difficult for broader audiences to understand the information that is being shared with them. The Westernization and colonization of global health systems alienates people, especially diverse multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and religious groups.
These challenges affect us all. People around the globe are eager to halt the spread of COVID-19. There are many, however, that are uncertain, concerned, afraid and mistrustful. They want to end the pandemic, but may struggle to find actionable information relevant to their lives and contexts. They want to meaningfully address COVID-19, but have concerns, questions and doubts about potential treatments, including vaccines. Humanitarian and development actors must strive to shift from solving these challenges in a vacuum to a more inclusive and comprehensive approach where communities are actively engaged in dialogue and co-creation, and are able to propose and co-develop solutions to the challenges they face.
In the second workshop, and subsequent smaller working groups, we considered solutions and ‘asks’ of support for the challenges defined above, as well as consideration and engagement to and from the wider response community represented at this global conference. The golden thread that weaves through our solutions, is one of placing communities at the heart of decision-making. Civil society cannot act alone. Unless we listen, dialogue and work together as a ‘whole of society’, we will not be successful in mitigating the harmful effects of the COVID-19 Infodemic and other infodemics.
- Solution 1: Develop meaningful, engaging, and trusting relationships with systematically excluded and marginalized communities on the basis of intersectional identities, including youth, women, forcibly displaced persons, persons with disabilities, gender and sexually diverse persons, Indigenous persons, etc. By investing, supporting, and leveraging existing community-based structures, including local media, we can advance the agency and ownership of communities, through the co-creation and co-development of solutions. This process ensures credible, verified, and actionable information is accessible and contextualized, with the needs, perspectives, experiences, and realities of all actors in the information ecosystem.
Ask 1: Multilateral organizations should support and build the capacity and agency of community-based structures so that communities are able to meaningfully engage in decision-making, governance, and program development. This entails active and continuous engagement, mainstreaming, sponsorship, and resources, based on the principles of trust, consent, accessibility, justice, and Open Science, between communities and governments, multilateral organizations, media, and civil society organizations to enable a whole-of-system approach to address the infodemic.
- Solution 2: Infodemics thrive In the absence of trust, accountability, dialogue, and quality equitable healthcare. In order to address these drivers of disinformation and misinformation, we must hold governments and other authoritative bodies accountable to the communities they serve. We must shift from words to action and foster trust and continued dialogue between communities and relevant stakeholders with the ultimate goal of ensuring that communities are at the center of decision-making processes and that public health solutions are co-created with communities to reflect their needs, concerns, and ideas.
Ask 2: Government agencies and multilateral organizations must be held accountable and adopt an inclusive, intersectional, responsive, transparent, and community-driven approach to rebuild trust. Funding needs to be transparent and responsive to the communities they are meant to serve and include accountability and oversight mechanisms to ensure impact for the community. Additionally, global and government agencies must address issues of inequality, inequity, and injustice in community healthcare in order to be more inclusive, transparent and responsive to the communities they serve.
- Solution 3: Literacy is not simply an issue of being able to read and write; comprehensive literacy entails critical thinking and analysis, including an ability to discern fact from fiction. Advancing literacy requires us to understand key barriers to meaningful access to information and services, including healthcare. Once these barriers are understood, investments must be made in literacy capacity building and information infrastructure. Information literacy must be developed with and informed by the inputs, beliefs, attitudes, experiences, perceptions, social norms, and capacities of individuals and communities. Information and communication systems should be developed with communities and a comprehensive understanding of information actors and the existing ecosystem(s) in which they operate.
Ask 3: We must reimagine the way(s) in which we communicate with communities and invest resources in accessible infrastructure, services, and comprehensive literacy capacity building. Governments and multilateral organizations must invest in transliteracy , ensuring that diverse communities have the resources and skills necessary to access, understand, and critically analyze and/or assess information, especially as it relates to their health and wellbeing. Investments should be made globally and locally in media and information literacy education, ensuring it is part of core education curriculum.
Media organizations and practitioners need to be more inclusive and equitable; reflecting the diverse identities and experiences of the communities they are working in and reporting on. Capacity building programmes and initiatives should focus on supporting and engaging with diverse local media outlets and actors in order to build a more resilient, dynamic, and responsive information ecosystem. Lastly, scientific and public health communities should make efforts to ‘translate’ complex health and other technical concepts into relevant and accessible content that uses familiar terms and languages.
Difficult challenges require innovative and robust solutions, but most important, they require the will and desire to change. What we have presented above requires a global shift from top-down, to bottom-up and systems approaches to community-led problem solving and decision making. Until we meaningfully shift how we view, engage and support communities across the globe, mainstreaming their role in response efforts, we will continue to face the core drivers of the infodemic.
1. Malinformation is defined in the Council of Europe’s Information Disorder Report as Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, organization or country.
The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening three decades of improvement in health and social services for women, newborns, children and adolescents.
Available for review: Chemical background documents for the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality
This WHO Medical Product Alert relates to one batch of confirmed falsified HARVONI (Ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) identified in Brazil and Turkey.
Falsified Harvoni was identified in Brazil in May 2020 and in Turkey in November 2020. WHO has received recent information that suggests these products are still in circulation. Available information indicates that these falsified medicines were supplied at patient level.
The WHO Global Surveillance and Monitoring System database has prior records of other falsified Harvoni batches. Consistent reporting is essential to determine the scope and scale of such falsified products.
HARVONI is an antiviral medicine indicated for the treatment of chronic Hepatitis C. Please refer to the WHO Fact Sheet here for further information on Hepatitis C.
The falsified products identified in this Alert are confirmed falsified on the basis that they deliberately/ fraudulently misrepresent their identity, composition or source:
- The genuine manufacturer of HARVONI – Gilead Sciences – has confirmed it did not produce the product referenced in this WHO Medical Product Alert n°7/2020;
- AND the variable data (batch number and expiry dates) of these products do not correspond to genuine manufacturing records.
Table 1: Products referenced in WHO Medical Product Alert n°7/202
Advice to regulatory authorities and the public
WHO requests increased vigilance within the supply chains of countries and regions likely to be affected by these falsified products. Increased vigilance should include hospitals, clinics, health centres, wholesalers, distributors, pharmacies and any other suppliers of medical products.
All medical products must be obtained from authorized/licensed and reliable suppliers. The products’ authenticity and physical condition should be carefully checked. Seek advice from a healthcare professional in case of doubt.
If you are in possession of the above falsified products, please do not use them.
If you have used these falsified products, or you suffered an adverse reaction/event having used these products, you are advised to seek immediate medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional, and to report the incident to the National Regulatory Authorities/National Pharmacovigilance Centre.National regulatory/health authorities are advised to immediately notify WHO if these falsified products are discovered in their country. If you have any information concerning the manufacture, distribution, or supply of these products, please contact email@example.com
Table 2: Photographs of products subject of WHO Medical product Alert n°7/2020
WHO Global Surveillance and Monitoring System
for Substandard and Falsified Medical Products
For more information, please visit: https://www.who.int/health-topics/substandard-and-falsified-medical-products