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Nepal

In Nepal, psychosocial counselling goes on the radio

By Naresh Newar

UNICEF Nepal launches a unique radio programme to bridge the gap with the millions of earthquake survivors eager for information, help and support.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 3 May 2015 – In his more than three decades of radio broadcasting, Pramod Dahal had never felt so excited and anxious. The veteran anchor of Radio Nepal, the national radio station, was about to announce the launch of a special new programme as Nepal struggles to cope with the aftermath of the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country on 25 April.

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© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Panday
Archana Gurung, a radio anchor for 'Bhandai Sundai', speaks on air with UNICEF's Natalie Fol about relief efforts following the 25 April earthquake.

“We have never done anything like this before, and Radio Nepal feels really proud and emotional about it,” Mr. Dahal said just before ‘Bhandai Sundai’, a vision of UNICEF Nepal, aired its first broadcast on Sunday morning.

The title, which translates to ‘listening and talking’, gives people the most updated information about earthquake aid response, and also provides earthquake survivors an opportunity to ask questions and share their grievances, fears, trauma and concerns on air.

The show is aired four times a day, with specific issues covered in each slot. The first slot in the morning is a 30-minute segment on earthquake relief response. This is followed in the afternoon by a 55-minute telephone call-in session for women and children experiencing shock in the aftermath of the earthquake, with the country’s top psychologist responding to their questions.

A third 20-minute slot in the late afternoon is an ‘edutainment’ session for children, and the last 45-minute slot in the evening focuses on psychosocial support for families.

Genuine conversation

“For the first time, I felt very relieved to listen to a radio programme that gives a chance for genuine conversation, and this is so relevant right now for millions of parents to help their children,” says Min Raj Gyawali, one of the first parents to call Radio Nepal to share his concerns about his daughter’s traumatic experience during the earthquake.

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© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Panday
Children, women and men in an informal camp in Khokana neighbourhood, in the Lalitpur district of Kathmandu valley, get ready to listen to 'Bhandai Sundai' on 4 May 2015.

“I was so excited to hear children talk, and we all felt so good listening to them talk and sing,” says listener Bina Maharjan, a 19-year-old from Khokana, a neighborhood in the Lalitpur district of Kathmandu Valley, where more than 200 families in Khokana have been made homeless by the earthquake. She says that many teenagers like her are suffering from anxiety and fear in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Radio Nepal has the country’s largest listener audience, with over 70 per cent of the 27.5 million population. Its coverage spreads to 90 per cent of the country, from the cities to the most remote villages.

“With this unique programme, we are reaching out to the children, women and families whom we haven’t yet been able to fully reach physically because of the limited access to the remote areas that they are living in,” says UNICEF Nepal Country Representative Tomoo Hozumi. “This joint initiative with Radio Nepal will help to bridge the gap and help those in most-affected districts by providing life-saving information, and providing psychosocial support for recovery from trauma.”

Removing fears

Barely a few hours had passed since the programme was launched, when telephones started ringing in the studio with concerns from parents about their children.

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© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Panday
Radio anchor Janardan Bista speaks on air with Dr. Shaligram Bhattarai, on 3 May 2015.

“Most parents had very genuine questions seeking counselling about how to remove the fears of their children and helping them to move on,” says Radio Nepal’s Deputy Executive Director Dhanendra Bimal.

He also commends the remarkable contribution of the psychologists and their ability to respond in a very listener-friendly manner.

At 5:21 p.m., while 15-year-old Sadiksha Khatiwada was on air speaking to the host, the earth shook again. It was an aftershock of 4.9 magnitude, one of many that have threatened further damage and loss of life.

When the host urged her not to be afraid, Sadikhsa replied calmly, "I am no longer afraid!"


 

 

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