“During the Ebola crisis in Liberia, community radio served as the voice of the community,” said Internews Country Director in Liberia Mr. Henri-Paul Bolap during a five-hour live broadcast celebrating World Radio on February 13.
In collaboration with UNMIL Radio, the broadcast on the theme “Radio in emergency and disaster” was held at the Paynesville Town Hall Playground in a suburb of Monrovia. People from surrounding areas including students, cleaners, youths, media heads, professionals, journalists and Civil Society Actors all took part in the event.
Henri-Paul spoke about the role Internews played during the Ebola crisis in Liberia, creating awareness on the virus through systematic reporting, and working ceaselessly to dispel rumors about the disease. “Internews created the platform where the voices of the people in the communities were heard.” He also pointed out that, either in cases of disasters and crises or in normal living conditions, Internews really believes that information – and radio first and foremost – saves lives.
During that broadcast, Henri-Paul also introduced the new “Liberia Media Development (LMD) program Internews will be implementing in Liberia in the next five years with funding from USAID. The program aims at improving the Liberian media landscape by making radio more effective countrywide through capacity building at all levels, such as improved accessibility, quality broadcasts, the plurality of voices heard, radio stations’ reliability, financial sustainability, with small grants to media and media professionals, for equipment purchase and special reporting on issues of high interest for communities.
Benjamin Kiplagat, a consultant hired by Internews to conduct radio mapping in the fifteen counties of Liberia, also shared his experiences during the World Radio Day broadcast.
“Liberia is experiencing a number of challenges in community radio, especially in the retention of staff, lack of equipment and the provision of electricity,” he said. “These are hindering the output of those stations. We are recommending the provision of solar panels which will serve as reliable, cost effective and regular source of electricity and equipment for the radio stations.”
“Radio played an important role even before the outbreak of Ebola,” said Senior Radio Advisor with Internews in Liberia, Ms. Torwon Sulonteh-Brown.
“It was critical in the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation process (DDRR) in 2013 that led to the installment of an interim government headed by the late Gyude Bryant, as well as bringing together warlords from the various warring factions and finding a common ground for peace,” she added.
The Secretary General of the Association of Community Radio (ALICOR) was also present at the celebration and expanded on community radio’s role during the Ebola epidemic. “Although some of the counties were not hit by the disease, information gathered from other stations like UNMIL Radio and the Liberian Broadcasting Corporation (LBS) helped them to educate their communities on prevention, care and treatment,” he said.
Internews’ Liberia Media Development (LMD) program is funded by the US Agency for International Development.