Stop stigmatizing Covid 19 patients, communities – Upper West Regional Minister

Dr. Hafiz Bin Salih, the Upper West Regional Minister has cautioned the public against stigmatizing COVID-19 patients or communities that record cases of the disease.

He said such attitude could potentially derail efforts at reducing the spread of the pandemic, adding that “the health experts are there to take control of the issues; and I am quite confident of their ability”.

Dr Bin Salih stated this during a day’s regional level media orientation on COVID-19 organised by the Ministry of Information, the Health Promotion Division of the Ghana Health Service, and the USAID Breakthrough Action Project in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) and the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG).

He noted that the mode of spread of the pandemic required that they empower and equip the various key stakeholders with the basic knowledge and information to support in educating and disseminating the relevant information towards the containment and prevention of the spread of the disease.

On meningitis, the Minister appealed to the media to help educate the public to report early to health facilities when experiencing any suspected symptoms, stressing that the 33 deaths recorded in the region were as a result of late reporting.

Mr Joel Abekuliya, a Health Promotion Officer and Lead for Risk Communication and Social Mobilization Technical Working Group reiterated the importance of the media in fighting public health pandemics, hence, the need to equip them with accurate and reliable information to carry out their work diligently.

He stressed that it was only when the media was equipped with the right information that they would be able to educate and also allay the fears of the public with regards to the pandemic.

Mr John Markpe, a Regional Health Promotion Officer bemoaned the rate at which people were peddling false information about the pandemic on social media and cautioned journalists against the republication of such information without verifying from the health authorities.

Mr Sualah Abdul-wahab, the Upper West Regional Chairman of the GJA who made a presentation on behalf of the Association cautioned journalists to avoid sensationalism and racial/ethnic profiling.

He urged the media to be accurate and report facts, endeavour to protect affected persons, seek expert opinion, prioritize expert sources and uphold professional ethics among others to help educate and sensitize the public against the spread of the disease.

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