The BBC has launched a WhatsApp service in West Africa to spread information, news alerts, and provide what they’re calling a “lifeline” to people in the affected areas. It will be available in both English and French; you can access it at +44 7702 348651.
WhatsApp is the most popular messaging service in Africa and while it’s the first time the BBC has used it to spread information on health news, it has used WhatsApp and other messaging services like BBM and WeChat in the past for breaking news alerts. In a statement, Director of the World Service Group Peter Horrocks said:
This outbreak of Ebola shows no signs of abating. Myths and misinformation about Ebola are still widespread – and life-threatening. The BBC is trusted by millions of people in the affected countries, so we are stepping up our efforts to reach people with timely information, whether they’re listening to the radio, watching TV or using chat apps. We’re committed to playing our part and will continue looking at new ways to reach audiences, for example by developing programmes in local vernacular languages.
The BBC’s Ebola coverage has been extensive. In addition to adding the messaging service they also have:
- Weekly Ebola bulletins, Ebola Public Health Broadcast, have been produced by BBC Africa in conjunction with the BBC’s international development charity BBC Media Action since August. They are broadcast in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria on the BBC’s English, French and Hausa services. The Swahili, Somali and Kinyarwanda/Kirundi services also carry the broadcasts
- BBC Media Action has been helping to tackle misinformation about the disease in a radio programme, Kick Ebola Nar Salone (Kick Ebola out of Sierra Leone), produced and broadcast three times a week on 35 partner stations across the country. The show gives people a chance to ask questions of experts, and voice their concerns
- BBC Media Action has partnered with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to deliver ‘lifeline’ communication training to media, officials and humanitarian workers in countries at risk across West Africa. It will also produce media outputs – from discussion programmes to mini-dramas – to tackle rumour and stigma and to help people take action to protect their health in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea
To keep up to date, you can catch the BBC updates at the following times:
- News About Ebola is broadcast on World Service English every weekday at 1420 and 1950 GMT.
- Focus On Africa is broadcast on World Service English at 1900 GMT on Mondays and Thursdays.
- Ebola Infos is broadcast on BBC Afrique every weekday at 1730 and 0802 GMT.
- Parlons d’Ebola is broadcast on BBC Afrique on Mondays and Thursday at 1502 GMT.
- A daily Ebola TV bulletin is broadcast on BBC World News at 1830 GMT.