ArticlesFellowship 2021

Effects of Covid-19 Misinformation on Prevention and Control of Covid-19 in The Gambia

Though the year 2020, due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, is called “super year” for environmental and ecological sustainability [1], the year is posing a massive global health threat as well as extreme socioeconomic damage all around the world. Its global impact on lives and livelihoods is beyond measure as the fight against the COVID-19 is continuing and the outcome is still unpredicted [2]. The public across the world has recognized the severe, damaging magnitude of COVID-19 due to the fast communication and publication of false information about the disease [3]. The world’s first social media pandemic COVID-19 [4], is evidently not immune to the proliferation of misinformation [5]. It is as a result of this that the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared that the COVID-19 pandemic was going through an ‘infodemic’ (information epidemic)[6].  

The internet has become one of the widest sources of health information worldwide due to the large number of people having easy access to technological devices and low-cost connectivity with the internet in most parts of the world. Barua et al, (2016) assert that internet technologies are becoming inexpensive and easy to access. Statista [7] reported that according to April 2019 data, the global mobile population surpasses 4 billion unique users and as of February 2019, there were global 48% of web page views through mobile devices, with Asia and Africa leading the pack. Xiao Li et al (2020) noted that in China over 70% of adults use internet services to search for healthcare-related information. Similarly, Wang et al [8] reported that 93.5% of the public in China used the internet as the primary health care information conduit during the initial stage of COVID-19 pandemic. However, these factors, that is, easy accessibility to mobile devices and the internet as noted earlier, have created additional opportunity for misinformation about many issues, including COVID-19.

Misinformation about COVID-19 has taken many forms, such as conspiracy theories including claims that the virus was produced in a laboratory for use as a biological weapon; fake remedies and cures; and reliance on pontifications by religious fundamentalists who spread misinformation that prayers to the Almighty will save them from getting infected by COVID-19 [9]. This is the case globally as well as in The Gambia.

The President of the country, Adama Barrow, like heads of states of other countries, directed that measures be instituted to reduce the spread of the virus, including encouraging the population to adhere to preventive measures and following guidelines for keeping safe. Additionally, as part of the preventive measures implemented by the government, schools were closed and distance learning mechanisms were adopted. Despite these measures, the number of people getting infected by the deadly virus keeps rising [10]. Currently, the total number of COVID-19 cases globally is more than 200 million with a total of over 4 million deaths.  As for The Gambia,  COVID-19 cases surpass 9500 and the death toll is more than 300. These numbers are huge and considering the poor health infrastructure in the country, poverty rate, vulnerability and other factors, a lot still needs to be done, ranging from curbing misinformation, providing proper healthcare, to economic reforms and legislation [10]. 

The Gambia, with a poor economy, has a weak health system rendering it unable to quickly scale up to an epidemic response [10]. Thus, the pandemic is creating significant additional pressure on the already overburdened social and health service delivery systems, exacerbating the vulnerability of affected populations, in particular children. Misinformation about COVID-19 in The Gambia has hampered its prevention and control, thereby making the population more vulnerable and increasing the chances of transmission [11]. According to the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 situational report 2021, other ways in which misinformation has played a devastating role in COVID-19 prevention and control include:  

  1. Undermining the government’s efforts in the fight against the deadly viral disease. The Ministry of Health responsible for the health affairs of the country has raised concern about people not adhering to the regulations put in place to curb the pandemic. 
  2. Lack of trust in the authority– the use of the internet has played a devastating role in misinforming people about COVID-19 in the country. Since the start of the pandemic when the government introduced lockdown as a measure, there has been misinformation on the internet that the government is trying to seek for funding from international bodies because there are allocated funds for COVID-19. This notion that Gambians had from the onset made them lack trust in the government and has made it hard to contain the disease at the initial stage.
  1. Resistance: due to the misinformation circulating about COVID-19, which has been easily accessible, this has led to people believing that they know everything about the pandemic. This attitude has also resulted in the high rate of vaccine hesitancy in the country. Vast majority of the Gambians are still reluctant to be vaccinated due to the rumors that have been circulating about the vaccines.


[1] Djalante R, Shaw R, DeWit A. Building resilience against biological hazards and pandemics: COVID-19 and its implications for the Sendai framework. Prog Disaster Sci.2020:100080.

2] Mukherjee M, Chatterjee R, Khanna BK, Dhillon PPS, Kumar A, Bajwa S, et al. Ecosystem-centric business continuity planning (eco-centric BCP): a post COVID19

[4] Guynn J. Welcome to the first social media pandemic. Here are 8 ways you can stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation. USA Today; March 19, 2020. Available at misinformation-social-media facebook youtube-instagram/2870277001/. [Accessed 15 May 2020]

[5] Rosenberg H, Syed S, Rezaie S. The twitter pandemic: the critical role of twitter in the dissemination of medical information and misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can J Emerg Med. 2020:1–7.

[6] WHO. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation report–13. Accessed on April 18, 2020 at source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200202-sitrep-13-ncov-v3.pdf; 2020.

[7] American Psychological Association. Building your resilience. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2012 Accessed on July 13, 2020: from https://

8] Wang C, Pan R, Wan X, Tan Y, Xu L, Ho CS, et al. Immediate psychological responses and associated factors during the initial stage of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic among the general population in China. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(5):1729.

[9] BBC. Social media firms fail to act on Covid-19 fake news. Accessed on July 12, 2020, at ; 2020.

[10] UNICEF the Gambia. Covid-19 Country Response

[11] Ministry Of Health, the Gambia 

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