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Spreading healthy practices through entertainment

© UNICEF/Nigeria/2017/Kanya
Learning about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in a fun community setting.

13 September 2017 - Simple actions can often make the difference between life and death – and can certainly have a huge impact on health. Hygiene practices such as hand-washing before handling food, or breastfeeding a baby for the first six months of life without adding anything else can be lifesaving, but the vital importance of such simple practices is not always obvious. Some traditional beliefs, often handed down through generations, promote practices that are actually unhealthy. Many people believe, for example, that babies need to be given water in addition to breastmilk – a practice that is harmful for the development of the child and can even be dangerous.

Raising awareness about healthy practices and convincing people to change sometimes long-held beliefs can be challenging and UNICEF has a dedicated programme on Communication for Development, or C4D, that works at many different levels to promote positive change.

Reaching people through entertainment is a successful – and fun – way of conveying healthy messages and making a difference.

In northwest Nigeria’s Kebbi state, under a UNICEF initiative funded by the European Union, a Theatre for Development project is having a major impact. District head of Tiggi Community, Alh Musa Tiggi, says community plays broadcast on the local radio station are having an impact, helping to turn around poor health indicators in the state.

The plays are performed in villages and recorded to be broadcast on local radio. Alh Musa says the plays, which promote practices such as good hygiene, exclusive breastfeeding and delivering babies at a health centre, rather than at home, are proving so popular that people often record them on their phones and share them later with their friends.

© UNICEF/Nigeria/2017/Kanya
Battery from a car powers the popular performance, which is recorded to be broadcast on local radio.

“Even as the dramas seek to entertain the people, the messages they pass are easily understood by the communities and the plays have helped in bringing about much-needed changes in attitudes, promoting health-seeking behavior and increasing facility births,” he says. “You can go and check – there is improvement in ante-natal clinic attendance and other behaviours among our people.’

When actors featured on radio plays make personal appearances in the villages, they draw large audiences.

“People in rural communities are excited to see some of the local artists they hear on the radio,” the district head adds. “We are hoping this will help to change practices for a healthy and wealthy society!”



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