March 8: Misinformation during times of a health crisis like the one caused by coronavirus can spread paranoia, fear, and stigmatization, a high ranking UNICEF official said in a statement. It can also result in people being left unprotected or more vulnerable to the virus, said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, UNICEF deputy executive director for partnerships.
Gornitzka urged the public to seek accurate information from verified sources, such as UNICEF or WHO, government health officials and trusted healthcare professionals on how to keep oneself and family safe.
She also requested everyone to refrain from sharing information from untrustworthy or unverified sources.
“For example, a recent erroneous online message circulating in several languages around the world and purporting to be a UNICEF communication appears to indicate, among other things, that avoiding ice cream and other cold foods can help prevent the onset of the disease. This is, of course, wholly untrue,” she wrote.
In the recent statement, Gornitzka urged the creators of such falsehoods to stop sharing inaccurate information.
“It can be difficult in today’s information-rich society to know exactly where to go for knowledge about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. But it is critical that we remain as diligent about the accuracy of the information we share as we are about every other precaution we take to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”
She further said that UNICEF is actively taking steps to provide accurate information about the virus by working with the World Health Organization, government authorities and with online partners like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok to make sure that accurate information and advice is available, as well as taking steps to inform the public when inaccurate information emerges.