Tamiru Belihu, one of the journalists working in a radio and television media agency in Arbaminch town.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Amref Health Africa has engaged in a series of efforts to help the government of Ethiopia mitigate the impacts of the pandemic by focusing on the most vulnerable populations and the health system as a whole.

One of the three key approaches it implemented as part of its COVID-19 response is strengthening risk communication and community engagement.

Radio is among the various communication channels Amref has used to spread preventive messages to targeted communities. With the high penetration rate radio has at the community level, Amref employed this means of communication to reach the wider community and spread awareness on COVID-19 as well as influence health-seeking behaviour for continuity of essential maternal and child health services.

As part of the COVID-19 response project, with financial support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada which is being implemented in Amhara and SNNPR regions, Amref has been working with three different media agencies for the past five months.

Prior to engaging the media in targeted areas, Amref trained media people and equipped them with the necessary skills and knowledge on how they could better report about COVID-19 in their news and shows to raise community awareness.

Tamiru Belihu is one of the journalists working in a radio and television media agency in Arbaminch town.

For the past four months he has been taking the lead in producing and hosting a 20-minute program which runs twice a week in four different local languages spoken in the area.

“With our radio program supported by Amref we have tried to alter the existing negative perception and attitudes about COVID-19. There were people who believed it did not exist at all or didn’t know the transmission or prevention methods. As a result, a lot of people were resistant to the prevention and control measures set such as hand hygiene, wearing of face masks in public and physical distancing. We have worked closely with the health office and Amref staff to identify focus areas and design appropriate informative programs. We have had experts interviewed to respond to any misconceptions and concerns. We’ve also used the radio program to introduce any COVID-19-related guidelines or directives set by the Ministry of Health.”

Tamiru believes the radio program has contributed a lot in raising awareness among the targeted communities. “We received feedback from our listeners that they are happy COVID-19 information is regularly reaching and alerting them. We can witness correct face mask use and disposal, hand hygiene, especially in schools, and health measures being followed while in public areas such as transit, marketplaces, churches, and mosques.”

“In the radio program, we present personal testimonies from people who had the virus or lost a loved one to the virus. The fact that the program is transmitted in four local languages has helped reach more people in remote areas. I would like to appreciate Amref for supporting such an initiative,” says Tamiru.