Bangladesh is a high-risk country for a pandemic outbreak. So far, it has reported 117 cases and 13 deaths, but this number could rapidly grow in the densely populated country. In this situation access to reliable and independent information can proof to be lifesaving.
“We thought an informative campaign focused on prevention was the best way to fight the spread of the virus’’, says Mark Manash Saha, programme coordinator at BNNRC. He continues: “Most of the people in rural areas are not well informed about the virus and don’t take precautionary measures. This forms a high infection risk.’’
Collaboration is key
Since 1 March, BNNRC started mobilising community radio stations to produce awareness building programmes about the corona crisis. BNNRC follows and collects information from the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), the Government of Bangladesh, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and shares this information with the radio stations.
In total 18 radio stations, reaching 6.8 million people, are broadcasting these awareness programmes daily, distributing information about the symptoms of the virus, precautionary steps for preventing contamination, and how to access health service providers. They broadcast in different formats like news bulletins, radio spots, interviews and jingles.
Manash Saha: “Because of this campaign, the panic among the community has reduced gradually and precautionary measures to prevent spreading of the virus have increased. Communities respond by distributing leaflets, collecting and distributing masks, and they stop going to religious gatherings but use the microphone of the mosque to share information.’’
The awareness campaign will be continued until the fight against COVID-19 is over. Free Press Unlimited and BNNRC have been partners since 2007, working together on various projects supporting the community media in Bangladesh.
Video: Together for reliable information
Podcast: Together for reliable information
Episode #9: Journalism during COVID-19 in South-East Asia. As a part of the campaign ‘Together for reliable information’ we are producing a series of podcasts to highlight the inspiring initiatives from our partners all over the world to keep bringing reliable information to the public. In every podcast one of our programme coordinators will talk about the latest news from our partners on the frontline. In this podcast we speak with Paco Mens, Project Officer for South-East Asia at Free Press Unlimited. He talks about the arrests journalists face in Bangladesh due to the Digital Security Act, and the large scale operation of distributing protection kits to 1.500 journalists across Indonesia.