From Our Bureau               

14TH JULY 2020                

The Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic situation remained grim globally, with the confirmed cases across the world soaring to 1,29,64,809 and the death toll reaching 5,70,288 in the 216 affected countries and territories, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Globally, American region continued to be the worst-hit with 67,80,428 confirmed cases and 2,88,430 deaths. Europe came next with 29,46,104 confirmed cases and 2,03,957 deaths. Eastern Mediterranean region reported 13,02,297 confirmed cases and 31,751 deaths.

South-East Asia region’s tally stood at 11,96,651 confirmed cases and 29,900 deaths. African region registered 4,92,660 confirmed cases and 8,430 deaths. Western Pacific region recorded 2,45,928 confirmed cases and 7,807 deaths. WHO Risk Assessment at global level remained very high.

The latest edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published yesterday, estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in the past five years. The report forecasts the COVID-19 pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020.

In South Sudan, WHO and the Ministry of Health are working to address stigma and fear, which are proving to be major barriers to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new report from WHO highlights that violence and injuries are a leading cause of death in the WHO European Region, accounting for almost 500,000 deaths a year. Evidence shows that violence can increase during and in the aftermath of disease outbreaks, particularly affecting women, children and older people. WHO has also produced guidance specifically addressing violence against women.

Subject in Focus: Infodemics Management: Communicating uncertainty in the context of re-opening societies

The WHO Information Network for Epidemics (EPI-WIN) has launched a new webinar series to manage infodemics through effective risk communication and community engagement (RCCE). This series aims to build practical skills for regional and country responders.

The first in the series, co-facilitated by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, dealt with communicating uncertainty during implementation and easing of public health and social measures (PHSM) during COVID-19.

Particularly during the early stages of public health emergencies, there are many unknowns and a high demand for fact-based information. The bigger a public health emergency is and the longer it lasts, the more unknowns there are likely to be.

COVID-19 is a new disease that is affecting countries in different ways at different times, as well as affecting individuals with diverse risks. Implementation and easing of PHSM have highlighted the acute need to manage uncertainty through communication and engagement of communities. This webinar identified challenges of uncertainty related to the re-opening period, identified evidence-based RCCE tactics to meet these challenges, and highlighted examples of RCCE tactics used in countries.

The interactive session included 250 individuals from 73 countries and 184 organizations. During online polls, respondents reported that the main factor leading to confusion was various organizations provided conflicting information or recommendations about COVID-19. To avoid the perception that a change in recommendations is a result of error, organizations should set expectations for change, signal changes as they occur, and time- and date-stamp products.

Coordination also plays an important role in minimizing confusion. Coordination in communication can best occur by ensuring that partners communicate the same messages, coordinate releases of information, explain discrepancies between messages and build confidence in the expertise of all responding agencies.

This will be an ongoing series and will include topics such as: Influencing Risk Perception through RCCE; Creating New Norms and Sustaining Behavior Change; and Inclusion of Civil Society in Emergency Operations Planning and Response. (eom)

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