Community radio joins the fight against COVID-19 in Timor-Leste

Community radio joins the fight against COVID-19 in Timor-Leste

UNICEF Timor-Leste
Community radio joins the fight against COVID-19 in Timor-Leste
Radio Comunidade Cova Taroman, Covalima Municipality/2020
08 October 2020

Across each of the country’s 13 municipalities, UNICEF is supporting grassroots broadcasting to protect the health of every child and their family amid this global pandemic

As Timor-Leste battles to keep COVID-19 at bay, the country’s community radio stations are playing a major role in the fight against the virus. Dozens of community radio personalities, many of whom are volunteer producers or presenters, have been taking to the airwaves in all 17 community radio stations since February 2020 to help raise awareness on COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread. 

Community radio producers and on-air personalities have been instrumental in developing messages in five local languages – Baikeno, Fataluco, Makasae, Mambae and Tokodede – which are spoken by community members in the 13 municipalities of Timor-Leste. This is in addition to messaging in Tetun, the most widely spoken language in Timor-Leste.

“We consider ourselves to be on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19. We are from communities and want our families and friends and the wider population in the municipalities to understand the dangers of COVID-19 and know how to protect themselves,” says Florinda Soares, a volunteer at the community radio station in Manatuto Municipality.

UNICEF Timor-Leste/2020/Ratnam
Florinda Soares, volunteer reporter and radio personality at Manatuto Community Radio speaks about the need to follow health protocols such as regular handwashing in Galolen local language. The Manatuto Community Radio provides messaging and information on COVID-19 prevention in both Galolen and Tetun.

Since February 2020, community radio stations have developed or broadcast 11 radio spots more than 6,000 times. The radio spots focus on handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, physical distancing, the use of masks in public and calling in to report if someone is sick. 

“UNICEF has worked community radio stations since 2005 as we see them as the best conduit to getting information to communities across the country,” says Valérie Taton, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste. “They speak the languages of the municipalities, they know their audience, they are trusted and, most times, they are the only source of information for communities.” 

UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization to localize messaging on COVID-19 and how communities can protect themselves from the virus. UNICEF has also provided funding and technical support to community radio stations to develop and broadcast these key messages. Our long-term support to these radio stations is facilitated through the Community Radio Center of the Secretariat of State for Social Communications. UNICEF also supports radio programming and messaging on the national radio broadcaster, Radio-Televisão Timor-Leste (RTTL).

To date, Timor-Leste has reported a total of 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of early October 2020, one case remains active and the patient is receiving treatment. There have been no cases of community transmission reported in the country, and no deaths. 


Community radio joins the fight against COVID-19 in Timor-Leste2
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/Monemnasi
Community members take part in a mobile radio broadcast. For many people in Timor-Leste, radio is often their only source of news and information given how remote many villages are in the country.