Thursday, September 26, 2019
Free Press Unlimited supports journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo in their mission to inform communities about the Ebola virus – and put a stop to false information that can kill.

For more than a year, the North Kivu region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been in the grip of an Ebola epidemic. Nearly 2,100 have already been killed by the disease, according to the latest figures by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Free Press Unlimited supports community radio stations and local health journalists who are debunking the potentially deadly rumours that frustrate efforts to stop the disease from spreading.

“People say, for example, that Ebola is an invention of white people to exterminate black people. Others say Ebola was created by political agents who want to punish voters in Beni and Butembo [two cities in North Kivu] for their opposition to [former president Joseph] Kabila,” said Jacques Vagheni, coordinator at the Collective of Community Radio and Television of North Kivu (CORACON).

If people don’t know what’s causing Ebola, they will not take the necessary steps to prevent further infections – like washing their hands and using safe burial practices.

Programmes and listening clubs

Free Press Unlimited is working with CORACON to inform communities in North Kivu about Ebola. We supported a series of programmes about Ebola that will be distributed among 33 community radio stations in the affected area. The first two have already aired. The programmes address questions local residents might have. For example, if it’s dangerous to consume wild animals, Vagheni explained.

To boost the impact of the radio programmes, CORACON will organise so-called listening clubs in the affected communities. North Kivu has long been plagued by armed conflict. As a result, local residents have little faith in health authorities, Vagheni said: “That’s why this project is also about having discussions with community members about their fears and responsibilities in the fight against the epidemic.”

Journalist training

Free Press Unlimited also supported a training of 33 local journalists and sponsored equipment they can use to make factual programmes about Ebola. Luckson Mubake, who works for Radio Muungano in Beni, participated in the training in early September. “The training reminded us that from all the people we can use as resources for our reporting, we should start by talking to locals,” he said. “In the programme I present, I have already begun giving room to ordinary citizens to make their voices heard and give them information from experts.”

Photo: Pascal M/CORACON