Red Cross nar Salone takes to the airwaves

Published: 2 November 2012 13:15 CET

The Sierra Leone Red Cross Society has launched a new weapon in the fight against cholera. The society has taken to the airwaves to provide people with information and advice on preventing the disease.

The first show took place on 23 October on the national radio station, SLBC, and will broadcast for one hour each week on a range of issues from cholera and malaria prevention to disaster preparedness.

The first show talked about common cholera myths and included interviews with health experts from the organization, who then answered phoned-in questions from the audience.

Haja Kultumi Karim, Health Coordinator, with Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, said: “There are a lot of misconceptions about cholera in Sierra Leone; for example that the disease is spread through the air, or that drinking gin will cure you. While these might seem funny, they can be deadly - people won’t wash their hands if they think cholera is airborne or go to a hospital when they get sick if they believe gin is all they need.

“Next week we plan to investigate the link between food and cholera, which research shows is little understood by the population.”

‘Red Cross nar Salone’, which means Red Cross in Sierra Leone in Krio, will be hosted each week by Red Cross communication officer, Patrick Massaquoi. “This show will be crucial in reaching people with practical and useful information they can use to improve their health and well-being,” he said. “The speed of radio allows us to be closer to the population and the fact they can call in on toll-free numbers and ask questions makes it interactive and gives a voice to our listeners.”

The new radio show is being supported by the distribution of 500 wind-up, solar powered radios from the New Zealand Red Cross. The radios will be given to community volunteers in remote communities, who traditionally lack access to information.

The volunteers are being trained to establish listening groups and Red Cross nar Salone will be top of the list. “Radio is massively popular in Sierra Leone – nearly 80 per cent of the population listen to radio, but the cost of batteries makes it difficult for people to have regular access,” Massaquoi said. “These solar powered radios will ensure that no matter how much money someone has in their pocket they will still have access to information whenever they need it – whether it’s a warning of an impending flood or practical advice on preventing malaria.”