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The COVID-19 Pandemic Multi-sectoral Response (CMR) in DRC launches a dedicated hotline on WhatsApp, Alerte Santé COVID-19, in collaboration with VillageReach and Praekelt.org

KINSHASA, 24 November 2020 – To stop the spread of misinformation and provide the public with concrete measures to protect themselves from COVID-19, the Multisectoral COVID-19 Response Committee (CMR) and VillageReach collaborated with Praekelt.org to launch Alerte Santé COVID-19, the official WhatsApp hotline in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on COVID-19.

Using the most recent epidemiological data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CMR’s Technical Secretariat, the WhatsApp hotline helps mitigate rumors that can divert attention from critical preventive health measures.

By choosing from the menu of content options, users will receive an automated response with updated information, helping to relieve traffic to the toll free hotline number. Alerte Santé’s multilingual capability means that content is also available in the DRC’s five (5) official languages: French, Lingala, Kikongo, Swahili, and Tshiluba.

“The benefits of this tool will undoubtedly facilitate the circulation of reliable information on COVID-19. It alleviates one of the major concerns of the COVID-19 response committee, which is pleased to add Alerte Santé as a platform to complement the toll-free hotline,” said Ms. Marie Claire Fwelo, President of the Commission on Risk Communication and Community Engagement (CREC). “Alerte Santé will help fight rumors, infodemia and misinformation fed through social networks that negatively impacts the objectives of promoting the COVID-19 response.”

For his part, Freddy Nkosi, Country Director of VillageReach in DRC, Alerte Santé is taking essential collective actions for a coordinated, government-led response to COVID-19. “WhatsApp is the most widely used social network in DRC. Having a Alerte Santé platform will undoubtedly improve communication with the public, on the one hand, by enhancing the visibility and credibility of the COVID-19 Response Committee, and, on the other hand, by restoring the broken trust with the health system”.

Alerte Santé COVID-19 is an innovative tool for the public, especially since it offers the opportunity for automatic response and manual response through operators. This makes it easier to understand natural language, which helps to manage large-scale conversations. Finally, there is the management of data and the provision of information to the public in real time.

“We are honored to have worked with the COVID-19 Multisector Response Committee and VillageReach to launch this WhatsApp service in DRC,” said Debbie Rogers, Managing Director of Praekelt.org. “Like many countries, the DRC has a huge need for credible, accurate information on COVID-19 to support its health response during the pandemic. Using Turn.io technology we have been able to build a solution to provide citizens with accurate information to support the national response at scale”

The platform is as an essential part of the Congolese government’s multi-sectoral response to COVID-19, ensuring that the population has access to the health information during the pandemic.

The DRC’s Alerte Santé COVID-19 WhatsApp number is +243 (0) 995567216. The Congolese public is encouraged to register this number to their contacts list and send the word “Bonjour” to begin using the service. To access the menu to the four (4) national languages, users should text the following to the main phone number:

Send “Mbote” for Lingala and Kikongo;

Send “Jambo” for Swahili;

Send “Btuabu” or “Moyo” for Tshiluba;

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About CMR

In March 2020, the Congolese government created a Multisectoral Response Committee (CMR) to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Its mission is to support fieldwork and inform national and international opinion on DRC’s Coronavirus situation as well as to fight against misinformation that disrupts the activities of the response using official communication tools.

About VillageReach

VillageReach transforms health care delivery to reach everyone, so that each person has the health care needed to thrive.  We develop solutions that improve equity and access to primary health care. This includes making sure products are available when and where they are needed and primary health care services are delivered to the most under-reached.  Radical collaboration with governments, the private sector and other partners strengthen our ability to scale and sustain these solutions. Our work increases access to quality health care for 43 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

About Praekelt.org

Praekelt.org is a leading technology non-profit organisation that harnesses the power of mobile technologies to connect patients, health workers and the health system officials to improve health and health systems. Based in South Africa and the United States, it has over a decade of experience collaborating with governments, NGOs and businesses to reach and help more than 100 million people in 65 countries.

At a time when countries have a tremendous need for direct communication about COVID-19, Praekelt.org (using Turn.io) developed a solution to give citizens reliable information and support the national response of the health systems that serve them.

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