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Radio and Pandemics: COVID-19 coverage by stations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda

COVID-19 in East Africa: How community and vernacular radio stations are influencing social and behavioural change in East African countries
Daniel Ominde Okoth
Daniel Ominde Okoth

What role do community and vernacular stations play to influence social and behavioural change in rural areas and urban slums? To understand this and other related points, KAS Media Africa commissioned AfricaBlogging Lead Editor Daniel Ominde Okoth, a Kenyan journalist with a background in community radio. His study – presented as audio (podcast) and text – focuses on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

 

The first case of COVID-19 in the countries covered by this study was reported in March. While this and other earlier cases in the region could be traced to recent foreign travels, it was evident from the start that an upsurge of infections, driven by local transmissions, was imminent.

 

Most of the people in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda live in rural areas and urban slums with no access to electricity or internet connection. As such, many had not seen what the virus was doing in other parts of the world. This background, observed Okoth – who studied the response on the ground and spoke to a host of experts and ordinary people – meant trouble. On one hand, there was a mix of myths and misinformation that was spreading like wildfire. To compound the problem, government protocols on behavioural changes such as social distancing and discouragement of handshakes directly contrasted deep-rooted cultural practices. On the other end, some government officials dished out controversial messages – an unwanted scenario that complicated things for some of the radio stations polled.