Keeping Babies Clean and Healthy Using a Radio Talk Show

Gashamo, Somali region

By Kalkidan Gugsa
1-month-old infant Hamdi Abdi Omar in Higlowley, Deghabur, Somali. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/noavi
©UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/noavi

08 October 2019

Ayan Hasen, Maternal and Child Health Head at Gashamo Health Centre, knows that many of the child illness in her community can easily be prevented through better hygiene and sanitation practices. She educates mothers in her community, particularly those who come to the Health centre seeking maternal and child health services.

I and my colleagues provide health education every Monday (one hour) for mothers who visit our Health Centre’ Ayan said. The education focuses on maternal and child health issues such as family planning, antenatal and postnatal care.

Now, she also has more opportunities to further improve the health and wellbeing of children and mothers in Gashamo with the opportunity for mothers to listen to a radio talk show called ‘Dereal’.

A Radio Talk Show - a tool to combat disease outbreaks

‘Dereal’ is a radio talk show produced in Somali language by Population Media Centre (PMC) with support from UNICEF. The radio talk show focuses on improving ‘Baby WASH’ practices and preventing cholera outbreak through practice of recommended hygiene and sanitation practices such as hand washing at critical moments, use of toilets, proper disposal of child faeces, and creating safe play spaces. It is a weekly 30-minute magazine programme broadcasted twice per week (one being a repeat). The programme has interview segments with community members and health experts and presents entertaining messages with poems and music. Ayan uses the radio talk show to educate the mothers that come to the Health Centre. Ayan came to know about the effectiveness of this show as she is also a coordinator and facilitator of Listener Groups (LGs) in Gashamo.

Listener Groups established in selected kebeles to listen to the radio show off-air since most people in Somali region don’t have access to radios and in recognition to the added value of having discussions at the end of listening each programme. Listener Groups provide opportunities for discussion which often lead to consensus among the group on what to reinforce or change in their communities based on the learnings from the shows. Listener Groups are among the modalities to reach communities with Baby WASH and cholera prevention messages and is used to receive feedback to improve the radio talk show. There are so far 20 radio Listener Groups in 2 woredas in the Somali region. 

Baby WASH is a set of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene interventions, introduced in Ethiopia since 2017, that focus on pregnant women, babies and children under 3 years and their parents: safe disposal of child faeces, protective hygienic play, handwashing with soap refocused on the child’s hands, food hygiene, safe water management and reduction of soil transmitted helminths. In Ethiopia where 38% of children under five are stunted (DHIS, 2016) and basic sanitation coverage is very low (7%, JMP, 2019), a nutrition-sensitive intervention like Baby WASH is a critical component of our nutrition programme at a crucial age for stunting.

As a Listener Group coordinator, Ayan has seen an opportunity to make her job at health centre more effective. She says,

‘At the end of health education programme, I invite mothers to listen to the radio show at the health centre. This linkage helps me to disseminate messages on Baby WASH and cholera prevention and to create large audience for the radio talk show’.

Jemila, who is a mother of six children and a Listener Group facilitator in Shinile Town of the Somali Region, also affirms that the radio talk show is instrumental in increasing people’s knowledge about Baby WASH and prevention of cholera. Jemila said that many of the customers of her small shop listen to the radio talk show as she often broadcast the recorded show from her shop.

Both Ayan and Jemila are encouraged by the changes they see in their communities. They think that people have now more knowledge about Baby WASH practices and on how to prevent themselves and their families from diarrheal disease including cholera. They think that proper disposal of child faeces and hand washing with soap at critical moments are areas where they see improvements in practice. The recommendation is also to expand Listener Groups to more Kebeles within their own towns and beyond.