Beijing, March 9th – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), today concluded a joint campaign on Chinese social media which mobilized hundreds of thousands of netizens to share crucial information on best health practices during the COVID-19 epidemic in over 50 languages and dialects.
With over 36 million views on Weibo, the month-long campaign, titled “Spread the Word, Not the Virus”, aimed to ensure that everyone is able to access the information they need to protect against COVID-19, regardless of their language, location, income or culture.
“Everyone has the right to know how to protect themselves against this epidemic,” said Beate Trankmann, UNDP Resident Representative in China. “In the absence of coping mechanisms, vulnerable and marginalized populations, including the elderly and ethnic minorities, could be severely impacted by the crisis and UNDP’s role is to help increase their resilience” she added.
The campaign galvanized netizens into making a positive social impact by volunteering their time to record creative messages geared to spread essential information to reach all corners of the society, particularly the disadvantaged who may not otherwise have been able to access it.
The campaign also created its own community by bringing people together through a shared mission to fight what the WHO has labeled the ‘infodemic’ – the spreading of false information and rumors resulting in fear and stigmatization. Despite physical isolation during the outbreak, participants were able to connect and find mutual support online from a network of likeminded individuals equally inspired to share and learn from others.
“By helping people to stay informed, even if you are far from the frontlines, you can still contribute to the fight,” said Jiahao Li, a participant from Shanghai who submitted a video in which he was teaching his grandmother how to wear a mask in Shanghainese.
Overall, the campaign went through two distinct stages. The first focused on disadvantaged groups and ethnic minority communities within China and motivated the youth to present WHO knowledge in Tibetan, Yi, Dai, and Uighur languages and dialects. As the virus began spreading across borders to other countries, a second stage was marked by many non-Chinese volunteers contributing submissions in Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, Romanian and Icelandic among others, as many international netizens joined the online community.
As much as campaign contributors helped others to stay informed about best health practices, they also helped themselves. Maria Fernanda, a participant from Spain, stated, “while making a video in Spanish, I feel like it is also a process of internalizing the self-protection knowledge as I repeated it many times during the filming. Not only have I minimized my own social contacts, I also encourage my friends to do the same.”
Ultimately, a total of 50 languages and dialects were featured by netizens in the campaign, showcasing the creativity and distinctive cultural identity of individual contributors. One participant even shared her video message through sign language for the benefit of the hearing impaired.
The campaign also leveraged technology by incorporating the use of an A.I. news anchor to further disseminate critical health advice and updates on the virus. UNDP worked closely with WHO throughout the entire process to ensure that all information being shared as part of the campaign was accurate and reliable.
In addition to the engagement of netizens, more than 20 artists and celebrities were involved in the campaign to help amplify its impact, including UN Goodwill Ambassadors and advocates: Michelle Yeoh, Lang Lang, Yao Chen, Zhao Wei, and Zhou Xun were among those who helped to spread the message of solidarity.
UNDP Animal Ambassadors for the Sustainable Development Goals, twin pandas QiQi and DianDian also joined in the campaign through a video submitted by the Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu.
For more information and interview requests, please contact:
Beijing: Yue Zhao, email@example.com, +86 185 1111 0464