WHO, ITU plan to send text messages on COVID-19 to mobile phone users worldwide
The Word Health Organization and the International Telecommunication Union plan to start sending SMSs to people’s mobile phones with vital information on COVID-19.
The two organizations will also be working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and telecommunication companies around the world.
“Now more than ever, technology must ensure that everyone can access the information they need. The collaboration will start in the Asia Pacific region and then roll out globally,” ITU said in a statement.
The text messages are intended to reach billions of people that aren’t able to connect to the internet for information.
The goal is to reach everyone with vital health messages, whatever the connectivity level.
An estimated 3.6 billion people are reported to be offline, with most people of them living in low-income countries, where an average of just two out of every ten people are online.
ITU and WHO are urging telecommunication companies worldwide to join their initiative to help unleash the power of communication technology to save lives from COVID-19.
The initiative builds on current efforts to disseminate health messages through the joint WHO-ITU BeHe@lthy BeMobile initiative.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the first pandemic in human history where technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, productive and connected while being physically apart.
Health workers are utilizing telemedicine to diagnose patients and hospitals rely on being connected to coordinate and triage them.
Resilient and trustworthy telecommunication networks and services are essential, as more countries, companies and individuals turn to digital technologies to respond to and cope with the impact of COVID-19.
Building on their longstanding collaboration, ITU and WHO say they are committed to identifying and scaling best evidence-based digital health solutions and to leveraging frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data to diagnose, contain and predict outbreaks better and faster.
In Kenya, the Health Ministry has partnered with telcos such as Safaricom & Airtel to send free text messages with information on coronavirus.
The global number of COVID-19 cases stood at 2,497,139 as of April 21 with death reports at 171,242 and recovered patients 656,060 according to the Worldometers website.
WHO warned on Tuesday that any lifting of lockdowns to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus must be gradual, and if restrictions were to be relaxed too soon, there would be a resurgence of infections.
Lockdown measures have proved effective, and people must be ready for a new way of living to allow society to function while the coronavirus is being kept in check, said Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.
We must adapt our lives and health systems along with the epidemic, Kasai told an online press conference.
“At least until a vaccine, or a very effective treatment, is found, this process will need to become our new normal.”
Additional report from Reuters
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