More than 1200 people across Juba, South Sudan’s capital, have been affected with cholera, a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease that can kill within hours if not treated in time. The number of people who had been affected kept increasing, recently doubling in a week.
Fears had been growing that an outbreak would occur in the UNMISS Protection of Civilian (POC) areas, where tens of thousands of people fled to safety following the conflict that erupted in December of last year. Despite the humanitarian services, these congested sites do not have adequate sanitation and washing facilities. Coupled with the onset of the rainy season, there is a high chance that the illness will spread rapidly.
Internews responded quickly in the two UNMISS bases –Tong Ping and the UN House – through its Humanitarian Information Service Boda Boda Talk Talk (BBTT). BBTT is a unique audio service, consisting of a quad bike with a speaker attached to it, that roves around the sites stopping at dedicated “Listening Stops” to play 30-minute programs. The locally-produced programs include everything from dramas and news to greetings and songs, providing life-saving and life-enhancing information. BBTT serves more than 30,000 men, women and children who have lost their homes and been displaced to the sites. The program includes local news from the community housed within the UN site, features and conversations with providers and community members, and health, protection and peace-building messages.
As soon as the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak last month, Boda Boda Talk Talk produced bulletins and short information pieces through an existing health campaign called “Our Health is in Our Hands,” which BBTT had already developed to help improve hygiene awareness and promote better practices in the site.
The team also wrote and produced two Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to make people aware of the cholera transmission routes, how to recognise the symptoms, and informing people about what to do if they suspected someone was suffering from the illness.
“We are very lucky because there are many messages from Boda Boda Talk Talk about cholera - the number of cases here are very few compared to outside in the town. It has helped everyone here to make sure they wash their hands with soap,” says Abraham Pun Choul, a water point attendant with Nile Hope, a local NGO that partners with NGOs.
Listeners have told the team about how much they appreciate the work being done by the NGOs in the camp, especially in terms of disease prevention measures. As one listener said: “Outside, they are dying, but in here, they (the NGOs) are keeping us safe. I appreciate all the work they do and you, Boda Boda Talk Talk, for making us more aware.”
To ensure the messages were delivered in an accessible way to all listeners, the Boda Boda Talk Talk team produced a 3-minute drama that featured a child wanting to use the toilet so he can be clean and not defecate in the street, and so he will be able to wash his hands with soap afterwards. However, the busy mum Asunta tells him that he should go in the road, calling him to then come and eat his dinner. The next day the boy is sick and the mother discusses his serious diarrhoea-like symptoms with her neighbour.
To reinforce the message, posters with the tag line “Stop. Think. Act. Always Wash Your Hands with Soap” were designed, translated into Nuer and widely distributed in the site – at water points and clinics. T-shirts with the same message have also been printed with “My Health is in My Hands.”
Outside of the two sites in Juba, Internews is also working in partnership with South Sudan Red Cross and the Ministry of Health and has produced a special 10-minute recorded audio program as a spin off from Boda Boda Talk Talk – called Juba Juba Talk Talk. This program includes a cholera song, PSA and the drama. The South Sudan Red Cross has trained and deployed 100 volunteers who will target key areas of the city where cholera is concentrated in. They will take the audio program and target markets, schools and other key places where people gather, playing the program on large speakers provided by Internews.
From the first days of the cholera outbreak, Eye Radio, a Juba-based news radio station supported by Internews, produced PSAs on cholera in all local languages, including Acholi, Bari, English, Simple Arabic, Dinka, Nuer, Madi, Moru, Shilluk, Lotuko, and Zande. Each language airs once day, with hundreds of messages broadcast.
Internews’ work in South Sudan is supported by the US Agency for International Development.