Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Access to independent information is critical, especially at a time like this. In Bangladesh, many people live in communities in remote and rural areas, where only a few newspapers are available, and mainstream media are more difficult to access. Our partner Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) mobilises community radio to reach the most remote audiences with information about COVID-19.

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