Spotlight on Koch FM: Tackling sanitation issues in a slum (BBC Media Action)

June 12, 2017
Une traduction pour cet article est disponible en Français

Koch FM uses a shipping container that is soundproofed with egg cartons as a studio. The station broadcasts from Korogocho, one of Kenya’s largest slums, and uses whatever space is available. Korogocho is one of Nairobi’s largest informal settlements, home to more than 150,000 residents.

Nearby, on the banks of a slimy, grey river, a man uses a handcart to dump a barrel of human waste into the water. But the cart slips from his grasp, slides down the slope, and tumbles in, forcing him to wade through the sludge to retrieve it.

Sanitation is a huge issue for Koch FM’s listeners, who live in poor and overcrowded conditions. Just outside the radio station’s gates, children play in piles of rubbish. The lack of infrastructure has turned the nearest river into an open sewer. Clean water is hard to come by, and many people rely on rainwater or water vending points run by cartels.

The consequence is that life-threatening illnesses like diarrhea are all too common.

And so Koch FM, with the support of BBC Media Action, began broadcasting messages about water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues.

Dramas and public service announcements give people information on how to avoid illnesses caused by contaminated food and water. The recommendations include boiling water before drinking and washing hands with soap before eating.

Since water is a substantial expense for listeners, broadcasters emphasize the economic impact of not following these practices.

They broadcast a weekly interactive program called WASH Thursdays, which incorporates a drama, interviews with experts, and listeners’ comments.

Koch FM’s broadcasters are tackling this important topic despite the limits of their makeshift station. Koch FM has been run by a team of passionate volunteers since 2006, and received support in 2015 from BBC’s Media Action.

Davie Njuguna is a mentor for Koch FM with BBC Media Action. He says, “Their equipment is basic, they regularly suffer from power cuts, and money is tight because, as a community radio station, they are not allowed commercial funding.”

But, he says with a proud smile, “Their enthusiasm is incredible and they picked up the need to produce WASH content immediately.”

This story was originally published in October 2015. To read the original story, titled, “Koch FM: The radio station in a slum,” go to:

Photo credit: BBC Media Action