On February 16, more than 500 people came to celebrate the first year anniversary of Nile FM, a community radio station located at the heart of one of South Sudan’s conflict areas.
“Nile FM has played an important role in promoting informed decisions on health, protection, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and other pertinent issues of the PoC (protection of citizens) community,” said Ken Rogers, the Head of Office for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Malakal. “I urge Nile FM to continue this incredible service.”
The timely anniversary fell on World Radio Day, which commemorates the establishment of radio’s importance in access to information, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press.
Representatives of women, youth, and teachers, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), International Medical Corps (IMC), UNOCHA, and other humanitarian organizations reflected on the station’s important role in broadcasting issues that affect people in the United Nations Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, Upper Nile State. In August of last year, a comprehensive peace agreement was signed by the warring parties, however a real peace, and all that comes with it, is yet to be seen.
They urged Internews and Nile FM to continue to broadcast more peace messages and to further expand its reach outside Malakal PoC.
“Peace is extremely important now. We need to send our children back to school. …we need all actors to promote peace at all levels,” Bashir M. Esse-Dirie, the IGAD representative, told the crowd.
Hastings Phiri, United Nations Missions in South Sudan (UNMISS) State Coordinator, also noted the important role of Nile FM in broadcasting peace messages and other critical information to the community.
“During emergencies, populations tend to believe in various unverified rumors about the conflict. Radio therefore, aids humanitarian workers and decision-makers by framing the disaster authentically and fostering informed attitudes to such interventions.”
Members of the community spoke about how Nile FM has changed their lives.
Racheal Mayiik, women’s representative in PoC, told the gathering: “Before we did not know when and where food distribution would be conducted and hence used to spend days outside. Now we listen to Nile FM and we know when our turn is.”
Mayiik, one of the recipients of Nile FM’s award as Best Listener of the Year, urged people to actively engage with Nile FM correspondents on services they need most and to make their lives better.
Another community member added, “I have never washed my hands before eating. After attending the Nile FM WASH program, I learned that all my problems are coming from my failure to wash. Thank you, Nile FM, you saved my life.”
Internews began working in Malakal in June 2014 in response to the cholera outbreak. Working hand in hand with the WASH cluster, Internews engaged communities through quality health programming so that communities could take ownership of their decision-making about their health. Internews first implemented a Boda Boda Talk Talk (BBTT) project, a mini-media Humanitarian Information Service which distributed two hyper-local programs per week via roving speakers in the POC.
Due to demand and overwhelming support from the community, Internews decided to increase from a BBTT project to a full-fledged FM community radio station, and launched Nile FM on February 17, 2015.
With its current team of 14 community correspondents and information officers, Nile FM has produced nearly 2,000 stories about topics such as peace, security, protection, camp management, health, gender based violence, children, education, food distribution, youth and WASH.
In addition, Internews has distributed over 2,000 solar powered, wind-up radio sets to Nile FM listening groups, women, youth, elders, and disabled persons. The radio station has more than 140 listening groups that regularly provide feedback on its programming as well as humanitarian response and services.
Nile FM is now planning to expand its reach outside the Malakal PoC. Preparations are underway to erect a 42 meter radio mast, which will expand broadcast coverage beyond its current 25 kilometer radius.