South Africa: The World Health Organization Launches WHO Health Alert on WhatsApp

26 March 2020
WhatsApp
press release

As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads, people all over the globe are turning to the World Health Organization for official, trusted health information and advice.

Today we are extremely pleased to announce the launch of the World Health Organization’s Health Alert on WhatsApp. The new service, which is free to use, has been designed to answer questions from the public about Coronavirus, and to give prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day, worldwide. This will also serve government decision-makers by providing the latest numbers and situation reports.

Start by clicking WHO Health Alert, then simply text the word ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started. The service responds to a series of prompts and will be updated daily with the latest information.

You can also visit the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub at whatsapp.com/coronavirus, and click on the WHO link on the homepage to open up a chat with the WHO Health Alert if you have WhatsApp installed.

The WHO Health Alert will provide official information on topics such as how to protect yourself from infection, travel advice, and debunking Coronavirus myths. The service is initially launching in English but will be available in all six United Nations languages within the coming weeks (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.)

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO said: “Digital technology gives us an unprecedented opportunity for vital health information to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us save lives and protect the vulnerable. We are proud to have partners like Facebook and WhatsApp, that are supporting us in reaching billions of people with important health information.”

Since February, WhatsApp has reached out to dozens of governments to assist their efforts to provide accurate information to the general public. The WHO Health Alert is the latest official NGO or government helpline to become available on WhatsApp, joining the Singapore Government, The Israel Ministry of Health, the South Africa Department of Health, and KOMINFO Indonesia. We are actively working to launch local services with other countries as well.

Earlier this week WhatsApp, in partnership with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and UNDP, launched the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub, to provide simple, actionable guidance for health workers, educators, community leaders, nonprofits, local governments and local businesses that rely on WhatsApp to communicate. The site also offers general tips and resources for users around the world to reduce the spread of rumors and connect with accurate health information.

WhatsApp also announced a $1M grant to the International Fact Checking Network to support fact-checking for the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, to report on rumors that may be circulating on various messaging services including WhatsApp or SMS.

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