Advice on the airwaves

UNICEF supports local station "Radio Isano" to drive awareness on Ebola prevention at the Rwanda-DR Congo border.

By Laura Wotton
Local and national journalists are contracted by Radio Isano to disseminate crucial Ebola prevention advice over the airwaves in Rwanda..
UNICEF/UN0336095/Wotton

15 August 2019

RUBAVU, Rwanda - In the bustling border market at Petite Barriére, Esperance Nyiramahirwe rearranges the fruit in her stall. Beside her is a large bucket of water, which she uses to vigorously scrub her hands between sales. She is not the only one – the smell of chlorinated water permeates the market, smelling sterile as a hospital ward.

“Radio Isano broadcasts information on Ebola all day,” says Esperance. “That is why I started keeping water for handwashing near my stall, so I can keep clean and prevent myself from getting the disease.”

Esperance Nyiramahirwe sells fruit in the Petite Barriére market on the Rubavu-Goma border, a business that thrives on the border remaining open and relies on tight Ebola prevention measures.
UNICEF/UN0336082/Wotton
Esperance Nyiramahirwe sells fruit in the Petite Barriére market on the Rubavu-Goma border, a business that thrives on the border remaining open and relies on tight Ebola prevention measures.

Located on the border with Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rubavu is at high-risk for Ebola transmission. From morning to dusk, vendors and customers flood across the border and back for daily business and trade.

“I have heard that up to 40,000 people cross each day,” says Esperance as she closes a transaction.

Despite the risk, Esperance relies on the steady stream of border crossers to bolster her business. Besides washing her hands regularly, she learns about Ebola symptoms, treatment and prevention from Radio Isano, a local UNICEF-supported station broadcasting one-minute Ebola messages every hour.

Esperance Nyiramahirwe sells fruit in the Petite Barriére market on the Rubavu-Goma border, a business that thrives on the border remaining open and relies on tight Ebola prevention measures.
UNICEF/UN0336080/Wotton
Esperance Nyiramahirwe sells fruit in the Petite Barriére market on the Rubavu-Goma border. She keeps a handwashing station near her market stall to help prevt Ebola.

As Esperance sells watermelons and customers move between market stalls, Radio Isano blares over the market speakers.

“If you need more information about Ebola, call our toll-free hotline 114,” the radio journalist blurts.

Francois “Sano” Niyigena stands ouside Radio Isano, using the influence of his popular station to broadcast Ebola prevention advice to market-goers on the Rubavu-Goma border.
UNICEF/UN0336092/Wotton

“People moving through the border markets do not have time to read the newspaper or use social media. That’s why we use radio.”

Francois "Sano" Niyigena

Francois “Sano” Niyigena is the founder of Radio Isano, committed to reaching his community with potentially life-saving advice.  

Over the past seven months, UNICEF has supported Radio Isano to expand from four locations around Rubavu to eight, meaning wider coverage and more journalists dedicated to spreading information and updates. Radio Isano's speakers now stretch two kilometres from the border, permeating markets, bus parks and connecting roads.

Two men transport goods in their cart, making one of many daily trips across the border between Rubavu, Rwanda and Goma, DR Congo.
UNICEF/UN0336083/Wotton
Two men transport goods across the market, making one of many daily trips across the border between Rubavu, Rwanda and Goma, DR Congo.

“We are developing a radio drama on Ebola prevention,” says Sano, “and we have produced a song with popular Rwandan artists.”

He smiles. “We want to be informative, but also unique.”

Visiting Esperance back in her market stall, she is unconcerned. It seems Radio Isano is getting through.

“Very serious measures have been taken to prevent Ebola in Rwanda,” Esperance says confidently. “We are not worried.”