Statement by Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Partnerships, on coronavirus misinformation

NEW YORK, 6 March 2020 – “All around the world, people are taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families from coronavirus. Sound preparation, based on scientific evidence, is what is needed at this time.

ARCHIVE: On 11 February 2020, Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director (Partnerships), speaks during the first regular session of the UNICEF 2020 Executive Board, at United Nations Headquarters in New York. © UNICEF/UNI288689/McIlwaine

“However, while many people are sharing information about the virus and how to protect against it, only some of that information is useful or reliable. Misinformation during times of a health crisis can spread paranoia, fear, and stigmatization. It can also result in people being left unprotected or more vulnerable to the virus.

“For example, a recent erroneous online message circulating in several languages around the world and purporting to be a UNICEF communication appears to indicate, among other things, that avoiding ice cream and other cold foods can help prevent the onset of the disease. This is, of course, wholly untrue.

“To the creators of such falsehoods, we offer a simple message: STOP. Sharing inaccurate information and attempting to imbue it with authority by misappropriating the names of those in a position of trust is dangerous and wrong.

ARCHIVE: On 11 February 2020, Charlotte Petri Gornitzka (left), UNICEF Deputy Executive Director (Partnerships) at the first regular session of the UNICEF 2020 Executive Board, at United Nations Headquarters in New York. © UNICEF/UNI288689/McIlwaine

“To members of the public, we ask that you seek accurate information about how to keep yourself and your family safe from verified sources, such as UNICEF or WHO, government health officials and trusted healthcare professionals; and that you refrain from sharing information from untrustworthy or unverified sources.

“It can be difficult in today’s information-rich society to know exactly where to go for knowledge about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. But it is critical that we remain as diligent about the accuracy of the information we share as we are about every other precaution we take to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

© UNICEF/UNI309726/

“UNICEF is actively taking steps to provide accurate information about the virus by working with the World Health Organization, government authorities and with online partners like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok to make sure that accurate information and advice is available, as well as taking steps to inform the public when inaccurate information emerges.


About UNICEF
 

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit http://www.unicef.org.

 

For more information, please contact:

Kurtis Cooper, UNICEF New York, +1 917 476 1435, kacooper@unicef.org

Chris Tidey, UNICEF New York, +1 917 340 3017, ctidey@unicef.org