When rumors started spreading in Guinea that Ebola treatment centers were being used to kill citizens and harvest their organs, Asmaou Diallo was the first reporter to enter a unit and give a first-hand account of what really goes on there.
“That was revolutionary because nobody had ever been in the center. No one would go into a place like that,” said Diallo in an interview with Carol Han of USAID. “But we wanted people to have confidence in the system.”
Working on the radio news program Ebola Chrono, Asmaou produced a three-day series in the first person about what happens when someone infected with Ebola enters a treatment center. It included a conversation between a doctor and a young girl as she was being taken in. They interviewed families who were at the center to visit sick people, and then moved on to the treatment itself and what happens afterward. The series also covered what happens when an Ebola victim dies, including safe burials, and what happens when someone survives and returns to his or her community.
Listeners were impressed that Diallo entered an Ebola clinic and came out alive. Her courage also raised the bar for reporting as other reporters soon followed her lead.
“A lot of things have changed,” Diallo explained. “We went to Donka, and we deconstructed the rumors around the centers. Other reporters are now doing the same thing. The impact is that more people know what is happening inside, and now more people go to the centers to get treated.”
Launched in January 2015 with support from Internews and funding from USAID, Ebola Chrono is broadcast five days a week, in French, on 32 stations across the country.
Ebola Chrono was started to address misinformation and rumors that were rampant in Guinea as the epidemic took off. Many Guineans don’t trust the information they receive from the government, international aid groups and medical professionals. They needed access to local information from people they trust.
The news team produces in-depth stories about the Ebola response, covering topics such as vaccine trials, community resistance and Ebola containment efforts along the border. Reporters routinely hit the road to pursue leads and get interviews from people affected by the disease, producing in-depth stories about the Ebola response, vaccine trials, and containment efforts along the border.
Diallo was a local radio reporter prior to being selected to take part in Ebola Chrono, but she has learned new skills from Pierre Mignault, the veteran journalist running the program.
“I learned ways to strengthen my reporting, like how to use interviews and ambient sound to make stories come alive. I also learned the importance of going out to gather content and verifying the information I receive.”
“As far as I’m concerned, this is the best team I’ve worked with,” said Mignault. “They’re very strong, dedicated. They believe they have a rendezvous with history. They know they can make a difference.”
Ebola Chrono will continue for at least another year with a focus on other issues of hygiene and health when the Ebola epidemic ends.
Banner photo: Mohamed Komah, Asmaou Diallo, Korka Bah, and Mamadou Kone, reporting from the Donka Ebola treatment center in Conakry. The team produces Ebola Chrono, airing weekdays on 55 stations in Guinea. (credit: Internews)