BBC World Service joins the fight against Ebola

Director, BBC Global News

BBC World Service Group Director Peter Horrocks explains how the BBC World Service and BBC Media Action are helping to counter misinformation about Ebola with special updates broadcast on the BBC's Africa, English, French and Hausa services.

The Ebola outbreak in Western Africa has so far claimed more than a thousand lives. As medics struggle to treat the sick and stop the spread of the disease, there is another vital front in the battle – bringing people the accurate and up-to-date information which can, literally, save their lives.

Countering misinformation is crucial. In Sierra Leone, for example, myths and rumours about Ebola abound – such as the claim that it is not a real virus at all or the theory that it can be prevented by traditional medication.

And this is where the BBC World Service can play a part. As a trusted source of news in the affected regions, with millions of listeners, the World Service is ideally placed to bring the latest life-saving information to its audience.

From today (Wednesday 13 August) the BBC World Service will join forces with the BBC’s international development charity, Media Action, to produce and broadcast special Ebola updates which will air across BBC Africa language services broadcasting to Africa on Wednesdays and Fridays.

These updates will cover the basics of how the virus is contracted, the symptoms and what to do if people suspect they or someone close to them is affected. They will cover the latest expert advice and new developments, as well as debunking myths and rumours, and combatting misinformation.

They will be broadcast in the countries worst affected by the disease: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria – on the BBC’s English, French and Hausa services. Other BBC Africa services Swahili, Somali and Kinyarwanda/Kirundi will also carry the broadcasts.

The BBC is also working with its FM radio partners to broadcast information about Ebola in other widely spoken local dialects: Liberian English in Liberia, Soussou in Guinea and Pidgin in Nigeria.

BBC Media Action has already been playing its part in the fight against Ebola in West Africa. For the past few weeks, it has been producing half-hour programmes on Ebola which have been broadcast across Sierra Leone in the Krio language.

In July, Media Action brought together staff from 30 radio stations across the country – including those reporting from the heart of the outbreak – with health experts to discuss how best to report on the current outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Media Action has also produced public service announcements (PSAs) for broadcast on local radio stations throughout Sierra Leone. Since there is no broadcaster which reaches the whole of the country, these programmes and PSAs have been made available on DVD and sent by road via courier to more than 35 local radios stations across the whole country.

Media Action’s Rebecca Wood spoke about this work on the Today programme this Saturday.

The World Service will also broadcast a special debate on Ebola on Friday 15th August where we will bring together families, health workers, government representatives, scientists and World Health Organisation officials.

Peter Horrocks is Director, BBC Global News and BBC World Service Group Director


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