Female scientists and health professionals in Ethiopia traded their lab coats for radio to promote childhood vaccination among communities in the country’s Oromia region, a first for the African continent.
The community radio project, owned by and broadcast from Jimma University in Ethiopia was the brainchild of Yisalemush Asefa, a clinical nurse and public-health professional at the university.
Low vaccination rate among neonates in Ethiopia
As a way of educating local communities, Asefa used the radio, one of the country’s most popular communication channels. With lack of adequate maternal-health facilities, especially in rural areas, many babies are born at home and not vaccinated. The last data shows that only 37% of a pentavalent vaccine in the country was used to protect children against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza. A lack of access to reliable vaccine information and the vaccines saw a large percentage of the population at risk.
Asefa’s initiative proved highly successful as radio is widely used in rural Ethiopia compared with other forms of media. Only about 20% of the population has reliable Internet access and a mere 50% have television.
The broadcasts included a series of 10-minute dramas in the local Afaan Oromo language. This was followed by a 10-minute discussion in the studio regarding childhood vaccination and during the final 30-minutes, listeners could phone in with questions.
The 10+10+30 Radio Project
The 10+10+30 Radio Project broadcasts and topics were developed during group discussions with health workers, radio actors, mothers and community members. This way, Ethiopians had access to the latest scientific findings and the benefit of obtaining free assistance from health professionals.
So far, more than 1 million people had been reached and the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation had come on board.
Anastasia Koch – scientist and TV show founder
While doing her PhD at the University of Cape Town in South Africa (SA), Anastasia realised that despite having scientific and medical knowledge about tuberculosis (TB), she needed another platform to share her biomedical knowledge with the public.
Thousands are killed in SA every year and to make an impact, Koch started Eh!woza, a non-profit organisation centred on science communication. With financial assistance from a London-based funder, townships in the Western Cape with the highest rates of HIV and TB were targeted.
Students from these areas are recruited and trained in science communication and to produce short films documentaries on the social impact of these diseases. These visually stimulating films are available on the Eh!woza website to share with the public latest clinical tests and research into HIV and TB and drugs which can be used
Storytelling is powerful, it helps you simplify complex narratives and humanise science. Science engagement can be difficult, but it’s deeply rewarding. – Anastasia Koch