In eastern DR Congo’s conflicted province of North Kivu, HCR has been working with partners to establish a new community radio station, Umoja (Unity) FM. One of the architects of the project is Member of Parliament Albert Baliesima Kadukima who has great hopes for this station….
It is nearly 3 months since their country was declared Ebola-free and Sierra Leoneans are yearning for a return to normality. But for many, life still remains far from normal, as communities emerge from trauma, where many still face social stigma, persistent health problems and don’t trust the health system. Added to this, an estimated 4 million people in the country are at risk of starvation and over 19,000 children have been affected by the Ebola virus through the loss of parents or loved ones.
In collaboration with partners, Feba UK and Affirm, HCR UK are working with three communities, a hospital, churches and a radio station to help local communities recover after the trauma of Ebola. Following a workshop to introduce a powerful community engagement process, known as “SALT”, the project will link local communities, health providers, people of faith and radio, using the strengths of each to promote dialogue, reconciliation and healing in Sierra Leone.”
As the Kenyan Meteorological office warns coastal areas in Kenya of the high risk of flooding due to El Niño, newly founded HCR partner station Tana FM , is playing its part to get communities prepared. Having gone on the air with the first test broadcasts only in May this year, Alex Stout and Jon Hargreaves from HCR UK were joined by new Kenyan team-member Sheila Maina, to train the Tana FM team on how to link with other emergency service providers and the community, to promote awareness and give critical information to help people survive in the event of flooding. The people of Tana River have experienced floods in the past, but the mention of El Niño reflects back to 1997 when floods devastated the region and displaced tens of thousands of people. Officials are warning that as many as 70,000 people could be displaced by the rising waters in the next few weeks.
In its short existence, Tana FM, the first community station in Tana River County, has already become a trusted voice in the community. The station’s CEO, Shedrack Hiribae, says Tana FM has already begun to have a big impact. Mr Hiribae described how the team’s peace-building initiatives have promoted dialogue between conflicted communities and also how mango farmers have got a better deal for the sale of their produce as a result of the station’s advocacy work.
Since the nineteenth century, eastern Kenya’s Tana River county has often been the scene of violent conflict, largely between two ethnic groups, the dominant Orma, who are nomadic cattle-herders and the Pokomo, who are farmers. Many of the disputes have been over land use and access to water, however the intensity of these conflicts has increased in recent decades. This has been fuelled by the easy access of weapons flooding across the nearby border with Somalia, growing poverty, the pressure caused by poorly managed resources and political interference. Add to that toxic mix, the extremist group Al Shebab, which is trying to destabilise Kenya and Tana River County, is at risk of descending into violent conflict.
Now there’s a new voice in town, promoting peace and community cohesion. With the help of equipment and training from HCR UK, Tana FM is now on the air broadcasting test messages from the capital Hola. While they wait for the licensing authority to issue the licence, the community is seeking to demonstrate that it has not only the capability, but the passion to deliver a new message – one of hope and harmony. The station is already attracting the attention of a number of key stakeholders, who believe it will make a difference. Former MP and prominent anti-FGM campaigner Jebii Kilimo, believes the station will be a powerful tool for getting the message out to difficult-to-reach communities.
HCR is working with local and international partners to build local capacity and planning to extend the reach of the station, to ensure that coverage gets to the areas at greatest risk, often where rumours and misinformation fuel tensions. Shedrack Hiribae, CEO of Kenya Sustainable Health Aid(KESHA), who first had the vision for a radio station, believes this “new voice in town” will fill a gap in getting reliable and objective information to the community as well as being a voice for the community. “Tana FM will not only promote peace, it will help development and be a force for positive social change,” he said.