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At a glance: Haiti

In Haiti, a radio programme entertains while encouraging healthy behaviors

© UNICEF 2012/Haiti/Dormino
Haitians listen to a Radio Tap Tap show inside a Tap Tap in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Radio Tap Tap raises awareness about a a variety of topics, including cholera prevention, water and sanitation practices, and child protection.

By Benjamin Steinlechner

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 17 February 2012 – People crowded into a Tap Tap, Haiti’s most popular form of public transportation, nod their heads and smile at the conversation pouring out of the speakers.

“You turn right after the second trash pile on the road going up the hill. Go on for about 5 km until you hit another trash pile,” said one voice. “Mine is the second house on the right.”

“What country is this where we have to give directions this way?” another voice on the radio wondered.

The disembodied voices are actors on Radio Tap Tap, a programme that uses information, lively skits and local music to raise awareness of concerns facing communities in Haiti while also promoting positive and healthy behaviors.

© UNICEF 2012/Haiti/Dormino
A Tap Tap crosses the main street of downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Mobilizing mobile communities
Tap Taps – named for the knocking sound people make to let the driver know they want to get off – are often adapted minibuses or modified pick-up trucks with roofs and hard benches. Serving a large number of daily commuters, these vehicles are a natural place to advocate for positive change.

“Radio Tap Tap is a series of radio shows that tackle important everyday life issues,” said Leonard Doyle from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which initiated the project with support from UNICEF and other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.

“With Radio Tap Tap, we directly reach the people we aim to reach: those who live in dire circumstances, the ones unlikely to read newspapers but still in need of information and stimulation so they can change their behaviours, whether in response to cholera or nutrition or child protection,” he said.

© UNICEF 2012/Haiti/Dormino
Operators answer calls from commuters listening to Radio Tap Tap in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. To monitor the programme's success, listeners are encouraged to call to answer questions related to the show.

The shows – distributed on discs to participating Tap Tap drivers – often feature actors playing Tap Tap riders, discussing common issues and devising solutions. Saniation is just one of many topics addressed by the programme; child rights, child protection and youth participation are also discussed, as are violence reduction and cholera prevention.

“Simplicity and direct access to people were major reasons for becoming involved in Radio Tap Tap,” said UNICEF Youth and Adolescent Development Specialist Jill Van den Brule. “It’s also a way to share with Tap Tap owners and drivers responsibility for mobilizing communities they serve, even if these are mobile communities.”

A major success

To monitor the success of Radio Tap Tap and receive feedback from listeners, a free phone number is announced at the end of each show, with prizes for people who call in and correctly answer questions about the programme. By identifying call locations, Radio Tap Tap can discern where audiences are and where changes in behaviour may be expected.

© UNICEF 2012/Haiti/Dormino
A driver plays a Radio Tap Tap program in his vehicle in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

For Wismarck Desty, a Tap Tap driver, the programme has been a major success.

“People choose my Tap Tap because I play the programme,” Mr. Desty said. “Not everybody has a radio, but everybody has to use a Tap Tap, and they like the programmes, so they choose my Tap Tap because they can listen to something interesting.”

Currently 150 commuter vehicles in Port-au-Prince play Radio Tap Tap, with plans to extend the project to include as many as 2,500 additional Tap Taps.

Clearly, Radio Tap Tap is on the move.



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