Mozambique: The behaviour changing power of radio

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Story collected by Dorca Nhaca and edited by Fernando Bambo in November 2017

Ismael Janato is a presenter and technician at Ngauma community radio, Niassa Province, and Jonas Ali Mussa, director of the community radio on the Island of Mozambique. The Ngauma district, located in the midwest of Niassa Province, near the border with Malawi, has an estimated population of 86,000. The Island of Mozambique is part of Nampula Province with a population of about 53,000 inhabitants.

Despite the enormous distance separating Ismael and Jonas – over 700km – both have the same mission: to discuss the prevention of malaria on their community radio programmes.

Radio is recognised as the ‘African media’ for its broad accessibility and its ability to transcend cost barriers, geographical barriers and low levels of literacy, supporting listeners as they negotiate the challenges of everyday life. The Malaria Prevention and Control Project in Mozambique, implemented by Malaria Consortium in the provinces of Nampula and Niassa, has established partnerships with community radio networks to develop and transmit quality messages and programmes in local languages, promoting essential malaria prevention and treatment behaviours.

Ismael Janato from the Ngauma community radio talks about his experience with the activities:

“For the past three years, I have been managing the project activities. We received audio announcements on malaria, its transmission, signs and symptoms, the use of mosquito nets and the importance of seeking treatment. As a presenter, my job was to translate the spots into the local language, to broadcast the messages every 15 minutes, and to animate public debates live in the communities.”

Often malaria symptoms are not recognised, yet rapid and appropriate diagnosis and treatment of malaria are extremely important for reducing morbidity and mortality. Ensuring population access to essential information can substantially increase the effectiveness of existing interventions for malaria prevention.

Ismael explains that he gained knowledge about malaria through his participation in the training provided by Malaria Consortium, and thus developed the ability to discuss these issues properly. Besides broadcasting the spots, Ngauma’s community radio produces interactive programmes with the public through phone-in discussions on malaria issues and interviews with health technicians. Ismael continues, “With the work we do we have noticed changes in people’s behaviour regarding the use of mosquito nets, better hygiene at home, and there are more people who, when ill, go to the health centre and do not go to traditional practitioners anymore.”

Jonas Ali from the community radio of Mozambique Island also reports an improvement in the correct use of mosquito nets and reduction of malaria cases in the communities.

“With the work we have done, we have been able to see that there is a reduction in the use of mosquito nets for fishing and that fishing communities use the nets more responsibly. People are using the mosquito net correctly, malaria cases are also decreasing thanks to better knowledge of the consequences of malaria.”

Indeed, monitoring data and testimonies indicate an increase in knowledge about malaria and some behavioural changes in the project areas. These developments are likely to be the result of a number of complex factors and combined interventions of the Ministry of Health and its partners. The results of the Malaria Prevention and Control Project indicate that the significant expansion of intensive awareness raising, education and mobilisation activities combined with the mass distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets may have contributed to this positive development.

Goncalves Bacar, Training Officer at Malaria Consortium Niassa, underlines that “the use of a combination of reliable sources of information – community structures, schools and radios – to disseminate harmonised messages at community level was certainly key.”

This story is part of a broader project documentation exercise; to read more and other lessons learnt, click here.