A United Nations official on Monday stressed the need for open access to scientific information, basic science research and innovation on COVID-19 to help reduce the spread of the disease in Africa.
Hubert Gijzen, regional director for eastern Africa at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that all resources developed on COVID-19 should be made available in a transparent manner.
"The open access to scientific information will empower journalists and the public with fact-checking tools on COVID-19," Gijzen said during the launch of COVID-19 health information portal for media practitioners in Kenya's capital Nairobi.
Gijzen said that there was a need for information that is verified, relevant and reliable, but also in languages and formats that are easily understood.
He said the platform should help tackle misinformation and disinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic online and offline through equipping media practitioners with safety and security mechanisms and fact-checking skills and competencies.
Mutahi Kagwe, cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Health said the pandemic demanded effective and well-coordinated public communication to enhance public response and elicit cooperation.
Kagwe noted the pandemic fight has been hampered by diffusion, misinformation and conspiracy theories revolving around its preventive measures.
He said that correct and timely information needs to get to all segments of society in terms of the preventive measures and the roles and responsibilities of different players in curbing the spread of the virus.
Joe Mucheru, cabinet secretary in the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs said that the development of COVID-19 vaccines remains one of the notable achievements of the medical research field.
Mucheru noted that researchers have saved millions of lives globally while urging African citizens to stop vaccine hesitancy.
He said that Kenya has through various policy documents committed to the creation of an information society and a knowledge economy as its main priorities towards the attainment of the development goals as well as addressing matters of public interest.
Mucheru noted that the launch of the information portal was timely as it will address the numerous challenges that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic with regards to the dissemination of accurate information.
The portal will provide localized information to different audiences in English and native Swahili and will also extend to other local languages spoken in Kenya including Braille and sign language.