WHO Seeks Efforts to Counter Stigma Surrounding COVID-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has denounced public stigmatisation of specific populations and the rise of stereotypes following the emergence of COVID-19.

Stigmatisation could potentially contribute to more severe health problems, ongoing transmission, and difficulties, the WHO said in its daily report from Geneva on Monday.

In the case of COVID-19, there are an increasing number of reports of public stigmatisation against people from areas affected by the epidemic.

Unfortunately, this means that people are being labelled, stereotyped, separated, and/or experience loss of status and discrimination because of a potential negative affiliation with the disease.

The UN agency warned that stigma could drive people to hide the illness, prevent them from seeking immediate care and discourage them from adopting healthy behaviour.

The report said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UNICEF and the WHO were developing guides and campaigns to thwart stigma.

In the meantime, governments, citizens, media, key influencers and communities have an important role to play in preventing and stopping stigma, it said.

We all need to be intentional and thoughtful when communicating on social media and other communication platforms.

The WHO said actions to counter stigma included spreading facts, engaging influencers such as religious leaders and amplifying the voices of those affected, emphasising that most people recover from COVID-19.

It also stressed the need for portraying different ethnic groups showing diverse communities affected and working together as well as balanced reporting.

Media reporting should be balanced and contextualised, disseminating evidence-based information and helping combat rumour and misinformation that could lead to stigmatisation, the report said.

There are a number of initiatives to address stigma and stereotyping. It is key to link up to these activities to create a movement and a positive environment that shows care and empathy for all.

As of Monday, the WHO report said 79,331 cases of the virus had been confirmed worldwide with 2,595 deaths in China and 23 outside China.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press