UNESCO supported the Ethiopian Community Radio Network in establishing a digital information sharing platform that facilitates instant information access on COVID 19. This is in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the UN Communication Group, ethiotelecom and other relevant bodies with a view to leverage on their reach estimated to over 25 million people in the country.
The platform has enabled community radio journalists and volunteers to get real-time lifesaving information from the Ministry of Health and other COVID 19 response teams on updates, data, messages and information that should be transmitted to communities in different languages and formats that community radios produce. The platform enhances the knowledge of community radio journalists on COVID 19 and empowers them to be creative in producing programmes that educate communities at individuals and community levels.
“This platform enhanced our production and relived our burden of receiving information from third party which may not be accurate and timely” asserts Esmael Tuha, a journalist and manager of Argoba Community radio 98.6 FM which is located on the boarder of Amhara and Afar regional states and broadcasts 56 hours per week in Amharic, Argoba and Afar languages.
Through messages that are channelled directly from national and international authorities on covid-19 sources, the community radios are also contributing in the fight against infodemic that is prevalent mostly in social media channels.
This initiative is responding to needs of communities in remote parts of Ethiopia and most rural areas who lack access to relevant and quality information due to their geographical locations unreachable to broadcasting signals of the mainstream radio and television channels and printed media circulations. Moreover, for most of these communities information that is critical to their need is mostly not available in their languages. Community radio stations have therefore become the most viable and only available source of quality and relevant information including about COVID 19.
The community radios are disseminating key messages on COVID 19 pandemic and informing and educating their communities on measures and guidelines that members of the communities should comply with to protect themselves and their communities from the pandemic, and filling an important gap due to their remote locations and limited access to communication platforms including digital means.
The Ministry of Health continuously publishes updates, messages and information to media including the community media on COVID 19 status in the country and the government announcements such as “stay at home” and “keep your physical distance”. These messages are reaching communities in remote areas and in a timely manner, thanks to the established community media platform.
Alemshet Teshome from Haramaya Community radio 91.5 FM noted that the community radio broadcasts programmes in Amharic and Afan Oromo languages for 8hrs a day reaching about 2 million people living in Eastern Harrarghe, Harari and Dire Dawa areas. He said that if information is availed in Afan Oromo in Addition to Amharic, it will save them limited resources for translation and enhance the quality of the messages.
UNESCO is closely working with several partners to increase the number of languages used in sharing information on the platform, from two to five major languages and strengthen further the capacity of community radio journalists on COVID 19 programming.