The BBC started a new account on the popular messaging service WhatsApp to update people with the latest information about Ebola.
The service hopes to reach WhatsApp users in West Africa, which is at the heart of the health crisis that has killed more than 8,000 people so far.
Since WhatsApp adds people to the network based on numbers in one’s phonebook, those interested in the service need to add +44 7702 348651 to their contacts, and then text “JOIN” or “JOINDRE” to that number on WhatsApp to get the alerts.
This is a free service and BBC says it is not paying WhatsApp anything to use the platform for this purpose — it’s sending out messages like any other WhatsApp user — and those who add the service to their contacts will get those messages free of charge.
Information will be sent out in both English and French, and will be a mixture of breaking news alerts, and public health information on Ebola.“This outbreak of Ebola shows no signs of abating. Myths and misinformation about Ebola are still widespread — and life-threatening,” the director of the World Service Group, Peter Horrocks, said in a statement. “The BBC is trusted by millions of people in the affected countries, so we are stepping up our efforts to reach people with timely information, whether they’re listening to the radio, watching TV or using chat apps.”
Information will be sent out in both English and French, and will be a mixture of breaking news alerts, and public health information on the Ebola virus using audio, text message posts and images. It is part from a wider push at the BBC to cover Ebola that involves working with other broadcasters to produce and air radio programs, and develop content in vernacular languages.
Ebola, which has already killed over 8,000 people, has set off alarm bells for the health community worldwide, as the virus’ spread seems to show no signs of slowing down and is now moving into countries outside of those where it first appeared.