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The Infodemic Can Kill

May 23 , 2020
By Eden Sahle ( Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at )

I was walking home on a late Friday afternoon when I came across a pregnant lady who was carrying a large bag of groceries. Clearly, she was struggling. I offered to help. She handed me her groceries with a huge smile, and we started walking together.

She was kind and grateful that I was helping to carry the groceries. She was chatty as well. She told me about her life and how the Coronavirus pandemic has been negatively impacting her and her family. Fearful of contracting the disease, she has been avoiding public transport, and usually walks long distances to and from her home in Gerji.

She and her husband teach at a public primary school. A mother of two, she was expecting her third child with her husband of 10 years. I asked her how far along she was with her pregnancy. She said her baby is due in July.

She added that having her baby will be a new experience this time around, because she was planning to give birth at home through a traditional non-certified midwife.

This was shocking, but she explained that this was her plan because she was afraid of going to the hospital. She was convinced that the hospitals are entirely focusing on the Coronavirus pandemic anyways and would not be able to attend to her.

She has not only decided to give birth traditionally but also stopped her prenatal check-ups. Several of the women she met at the hospital also decided to follow the same trend as her.

My pleas to her to get in touch with medical doctors who can prove to her and her friends that such rumours were erroneous before we parted ways were not fruitful.

The woman and her husband are among the many people who are terrified of going to the hospital, even for serious health issues due to the pandemic. This is understandable. The whole world is. We all are frightened one way or the other, although the intensity might differ from person to person.

But we should not allow fear to lead us into health crises, especially when we can avoid it by conducting important health check-ups. This disturbing trend is hampering follow-up and even emergency critical healthcare needs. People are risking their lives by buying into unfounded rumours. What could have been simple medical procedures could turn into serious problems or even become fatal when people refuse to seek treatment in time.

Ethiopia is a country where the maternal and neonatal mortality rate is disproportionally high even with hospital treatment. Although mortality rates increase in low-income families who live in rural areas, fatalities are also witnessed in cities. The country has yet to end all preventable newborn and child deaths by 2035, according to UNICEF’s National Newborn & Child Survival Strategy.

Like many other countries in the world, Ethiopia is confronting the health crisis caused by the ongoing pandemic. This is on top of the strain of life-threatening communicable diseases coupled with increasing rates of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and coronary heart disease.

As a developing nation with little fiscal room to breathe and a fragile healthcare system, rumours can be dangerous. They can lead to preventable deaths caused by misguided understandings of the infection rate of the virus and the preventable measures that could be taken. What is happening due to a lack of awareness and misconception deserves due attention from organisations working on public health.

We are all living in an era where uncertainty is driving anxiety. This is why we all have the responsibility and ability to prevent our fear from causing unintended and harmful effects to us and others. The public can play a big role by taking basic infection prevention steps and staying informed with the facts.

PUBLISHED ON May 23,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1047]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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