, 15 June, 2020 / 6:20 PM
In a bid to tackle COVID-19 crisis in Africa, the leadership of the development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has acknowledged the significant role of radio and partnered with broadcasting outlets in Uganda, Sierra Leone and South Sudan to reach out to community members with reliable information about the pandemic.
“Today, radio is still a crucial tool used by local experts across the world to provide life-saving information to people who can’t rely on newspapers, who don’t read, or who can’t trust the information sources otherwise available to them,” CAFOD leadership reported.
In Uganda where various church leaders and organizations are running messages on COVID-19 across Catholic and national radios, CAFOD is sponsoring the broadcasting of “trusted information” on preventing the spread of coronavirus such as staying at home, regular hand washing and avoiding social gatherings.
“The messages also ask listeners not to discriminate against people who have recovered from coronavirus and to pray for the end of the pandemic in hope and solidarity with each other,” the leadership of the UK-based agency reported June 12, referencing their initiative that is inspired by St. Oscar Romero, the El Salvador Archbishop known for having engaged radio as a tool for evangelizing and fighting injustice.
In the West African nation of Sierra Leone, CAFOD’s leadership is building on the work done during the fight against Ebola and has mobilized faith leaders across the country to spread prevention messages.
“We have radio jingles going on community radio stations, and we recently started a show where we have one Christian and one Muslim faith leader go onto the show and talk about the information (on COVID-19),” the leadership of the aid agency has reported.
“We need to counteract the false information, because that can spread faster than the real information,” CAFOD leaders have noted and added, “We are making sure people get the real information.”
In the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, CAFOD officials are facilitating local organizations to deliver radio messages informing communities about the hygiene measures that can minimize the risks of contracting COVID-19.
“In harder to reach areas, where we can’t use radio, we are broadcasting the same messages locally, with megaphones,” the leadership of the 58-year-old Catholic agency has reported in reference to their initiatives in South Sudan.
These community groups, the officials note, “are making sure that the messages are adaptable, and translated into local languages.”
They add, “We can also broadcast information and advice around domestic violence, which has risen during lockdown.”
In their COVID-19 response in Africa, CAFOD officials are working in close partnership with local faith leaders whom they consider “critical.”
“These leaders are pivotal in making sure life-saving messages are acted upon and also in breaking down the prejudice that can be shown to sufferers and survivors of a disease,” CAFOD’s Director of Humanitarian Response, Matthew Carter has been quoted as saying.
According to the CAFOD official, the experience of local faith leaders is of great help as the agency can use them to deliver “clear and accurate information” and promote good hygiene practices.
Founded in 1962 by Jacquie Stuyt and Elspeth Orchard, CAFOD works with some of the “most hard-to-reach” communities across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, helping the poorest and most marginalized people.
In sub-Saharan Africa where it has been operating since the 1970s, the Catholic agency has partners engaged in programs across 14 countries.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa