CoronaCar: An Innovative solution to combatting disinformation to save lives!

Afghanistan is a large country with more rural than urban areas where communications infrastructure is limited, and people trust gossip and word of mouth more than they trust media and official sources of information.  Efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus where hampered by false information about using household disinfecting products to prevent coronavirus and fabricated news about viral transmission by radio waves.  Civil Society organizations understood that the inability to access accurate information in these rural areas needed to be addressed if people were to be properly conscientized about the seriousness of coronavirus.

An Afghan NGO, Organization for Better Tomorrow in Afghanistan (OBTA) came up with an innovative solution to address the problem of disinformation and apathy in rural areas. They conceptualised the roll out an unusual bus called CoronaCar and a theatrical performance which travelled across remote parts of the country to tell people about coronavirus in an unusual and memorable way…

In just two weeks the bus drove through nine kishlaks in central part of Bamyan province and held performances in front of 5000 people.

The effort began with distributed leaflets specially designed for this purpose delivered accurate and credible information on how to protect oneself from coronavirus, while the Sattagydia newspaper informed people about COVID 19 pandemic effect on human rights. This method attracted the attention of both adults and children because it was so unusual, so expressive and truthful. Inspired by it’s success, OBTA decided to add a theatrical performance to tell a story about the coronavirus pandemic, to the project.

The project was implemented under the Global Initiative of the Innovation for Change Raising Public Awareness on Information about COVID-19.  Its goal was to help civil society draw attention to problems which coronavirus has cased in everyday life of common people.

“Actually, many organizations have implemented projects aimed at raising public awareness about COVID19 which were done in a very similar way. However, the communities got accustomed to that and stopped paying attention. People needed a different way of delivering important information, something that would be easy to understand and would attract attention of mostly illiterate people, women and children in rural areas.

As result of and thanks to the achievements of the project, the number of our beneficiaries reached to more than 5000 people (more than planned), specifically, women and children remembered the CoronaCar and message it delivered.” – says Khadija Mohammadi, director of the NGO.

People in Afghanistan today understand that it is important to assess risks and that life may bring many difficult moments but it is necessary to always check information.  Whether the information is true or false may affect peoples’ lives, both children and grownups. The extraordinary step of the OBTA in Afghanistan helped draw attention to these issues and, as a result, the communities received credible and true information and lives were saved.