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Radio Codel Kayna relies on local experts, women, and youth for a unique COVID-19 response

Saoul Ndungo has been the director of Radio Codel Kayna in Kayna, North Kivu, DRC, for more than four years. During this time, his community has experienced outbreaks of both Ebola and COVID-19. In both cases, Mr. Ndungo knew that Radio Codel Kayna had an important role to play.

Mr. Ndungo says that COVID-19 arrived in his community less than a year after Ebola subsided. And like Ebola, COVID-19 was met with skepticism.

Mr. Ndungo says, “In the beginning, people were reluctant. That was the first challenge; they didn’t believe in it.”

So when he saw the call for FRI’s COVID-19 support funds, Mr. Ndungo knew he had to apply because Radio Codel Kayna needed the support to serve its listeners. By September 2020, the station had received the funds and purchased a computer, two modems, and a recorder.

The station now uses this equipment to address listeners’ concerns about COVID-19 through a program called “Savoir pour Sauver” (“Know to Save.”) Mr. Ndungo says the program was created during the Ebola outbreak in DRC to address myths and misconceptions. During the COVID-19 crisis, it is needed for the same reason.

The program mainly features pre-recorded interviews with local health experts. These trusted community voices address listeners’ concerns about COVID-19 and share their knowledge on how to prevent its spread.

Mr. Ndungo says it’s very important that the experts are from the local community. It’s a lesson he learned the hard way during Ebola when Radio Codel Kayna called on experts from outside the community, like the Minister of Health in Butembo, which is more than 100 km away.

He says: “The people in the local community thought that Ebola did not concern them because the expert was very external. With the arrival of COVID-19, we have concluded that it’s really necessary to involve health professionals who are local, who live with the community …”

He adds: “[Now,] people can hear the voice of someone they know, who they see every day, talking about the disease, and really be convinced that the virus exists.”

Mr. Ndungo says that female leaders are needed in this effort too. He admits it isn’t always easy to encourage women to speak on air, but thinks the effort is worthwhile. Their voices help to reach more listeners and make an important statement about women’s role in media.

He says: “If we continue to talk to [women], and if we could have ways to organize sessions with them … on gender, women’s rights, gender equality, it can help them express themselves [and] give them the opportunity to understand that they can do better in the media than men do.”

Youth is another key audience for Radio Codel Kayna’s COVID-19 response programs. During the Ebola outbreak, the station established a connection with local youth through what Mr. Ndungo describes as a mix between a listening club and a lobbying group.

Today the youth group is 30 members strong and includes youth between the ages of 10 and 35. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as during the Ebola outbreak, these youth help keep the radio informed on local rumours, which broadcasters then address on-air. The youth also feature as guests on the program and even broadcast the occasional episode. Mr. Ndungo says they play an important role as ambassadors in their community.

Lessons learned from their Ebola response have guided Radio Codel Kayna well during the COVID-19 pandemic. But while key health messages for COVID-19 are similar to those for Ebola, Mr. Ndungo notes a few important differences.

He explains: “People already knew that in order to prevent Ebola, you have to respect hygiene measures. Then COVID-19 came … with the same message, you have to respect hygiene measures. But social distancing was a novelty.” So was the idea of wearing face masks.

To address these new public health guidelines, Mr. Ndungo and the staff of Radio Codel Kayna relied on Farm Radio’s COVID-19 radio spots to convey the messages. They translated the spots into two local languages, Kinande and Swahili, and play them twice daily.

Thanks to Radio Codel Kayna’s unique and inclusive approach, listeners began to accept health experts’ messages about COVID-19.

Mr. Ndungo says: “As time went on, we spread the message about COVID-19, with the support of FRI. [The community] realized that this is a global phenomenon [and] that they too must become involved in the prevention of this virus.”

Radio Codel Kayna was one of more than 100 stations to receive Farm Radio COVID-19 support funds. Read more Spotlight stories to learn about other recipients of these funds.