Radio at the heart of communities
Their transmitters generally cover only a few localities, but community radios transmit vital information to populations.
Since 2006, André Mbuta works as a journalist on the radio created by his church, in the heart of the Congolese capital. “I became a journalist at CEPM radio to inform, train and educate my community,” explains André, standing in front of the local that houses the studio.
The radio remains to this day the main media in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than 690 radio stations broadcast throughout the Congolese territory, including about 600 community radio stations initiated by non-governmental organizations, religious denominations or individuals.
Radio stations serving communities
Highly appreciated by the population community, radio stations are widely followed local media. “Our listeners spend almost all of their time following us,” explains André, who is listened to by 2,000 to 3,000 people every day.
When the first cases of coronavirus were detected in the country, André immediately joined the fight. “At first, the population did not believe in the existence of the disease,” recalls André, who redoubled his efforts to counter misinformation and promote healthy behaviors. “Today, the community recognizes that the coronavirus exists and kills, it works in respect of barrier gestures and accepts vaccination,” he says proudly.
A vital tool with multiple hats
Community radios are not intended for one-way communication. Meetings and debates are organized within listeners' clubs and community animation cells and the points of discussion are reported to the radio stations for consideration.
The coronavirus pandemic has underscored more than ever the essential role of community radios: bringing vital information to communities, allowing diverse voices to speak and be heard, and helping children continue to learn. “We broadcast programs adapted to children and students during the school closures,” explains André.
Driving change, uniting, inspiring and influencing
Having an internet connection is still a luxury for many Congolese, so the work of journalists like André is vital. Last year, approximately 45 million Congolese were sensitized, among other things, on essential family practices, epidemics and emergency situations thanks to more than 200 community radio stations and 57 television channels supported by UNICEF.
Despite efforts to inform the community, the majority of community radios face multiple challenges and operate underground without appropriate equipment. UNICEF supports more than 252 community radios by building their capacities. "This support must be long-term so that the development of community radios is ensured in the long term", explains Antoine Kabinga, head of support for community radios at UNICEF DRC.