November 7, 2014
Folklore, Rumors (or Rumours) &
Interfering with Development & Aid/Relief Efforts, &
(& how these are overcome)
There are lots of obstacles that can stand in the way of human, community
and institutional development, or government health initiatives, but there
is one that rarely gets discussed: widespread misunderstanding and
myth-spreading. Folklore, rumors (or rumours) and urban
myths / urban legends often interfere with relief and development
activities, and government initiatives, including public health initiatives
-- even bringing such to a grinding halt. They create ongoing
misunderstandings among communities and cultures, prevent people from
seeking help, encourage people to engage in unhealthy and even dangerous
practices, cultivate mistrust of people and institutions, and have even lead
to mobs of people attacking someone or others for no reason other than
something they heard from a friend of a friend of a friend. And with the
advent of social media like Twitter and Facebook, as well as just text
messaging among cell phones, spreading misinformation is easier than ever.
Since 2004, I have been gathering and sharing both examples
of this phenomena, and recommendations on preventing
folklore, rumors and urban myths from interfering with development and
aid/relief efforts and government initiatives.
Please note that I'm not interested in just urban legends but, specifically
misinformation that interferes with relief or development efforts or
government initiatives. This includes countries with conflict zones,
post-conflict countries, under-developed countries, and even donor countries
(like the USA). And most especially, I'm interested in ways that such
misinformation has been countered successfully. If you have related
information or examples, please contact
What I'm also wondering: are their any efforts in developing and
transitional countries similar to the myth-busting Straight
Dope column by Cecil Adams in the USA? Or truthorfiction.com?
Or hoax-slayer.com? Or MythBusters?
If you know of such, please contact me.
If you are interested in updates to this section of my web site,
subscribe to my
blog. I blog about this subject frequently.
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