Peace Radio Mikado FM: Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and infodemic
The United Nations radio in Mali has played an important role in facilitating peace and promoting harmony. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the radio is indispensable in providing timely and accurate information for people across the country.
In Bamako, at Mikado FM’s main studio, it is not uncommon for the phone to be ringing throughout the Midikado show, one of the most popular United Nations radio broadcasts in Mali. “Tell me, what are the basic protective measures you can take to protect yourself and others from the Coronavirus?” asks Ben Junior Kambiré, the host of the show, who is entertaining listeners and testing their knowledge on the pandemic.
“Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose,” replies Salomé Dembélé, an elementary school teacher calling in from Bamako. She adds, “You must also avoid crowds, cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and seek medical attention as soon as possible when you have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. But before going to the doctor, you must first call ahead.” Salomé, along with other Midikado winners, will later receive a gift for her successful participation.
Over the years, the interactive peace radio has built a close rapport with listeners, giving them a voice to share their daily concerns. “I play songs between the questions, raise awareness on the pandemic, and deliver public service messages,” Ben explains.
His colleagues, responsible for presenting information programmes in national languages, share the same sentiment. After Midikado, which is in French, they go on air to present the latest news on COVID-19 in Bambara, Songhay, Tamasheq, Fulani and Arabic. Since its launch by the United Nations Mission in Mali in 2015, the peace radio has been committed to communicating with listeners in the main languages of the country to reach the greatest number of people.
“Remarkable public service work”
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Mikado FM’s programmes such as Objectif Santé — a weekly show devoted to health and well-being — are particularly relevant in prevention and public awareness efforts. The show’s guests include Mali’s World Health Organization representative, Dr. Jean-Pierre Baptiste, national health authorities who provide the latest news on the pandemic, as well as a psychologist who helps analyze and reduce the impact of the crisis on mental health. The show also caters to children who are confined to their homes due to school closures. “We produce spots in which we answer children’s questions about COVID-19”, says Mikado FM’s well-known radio host Mimi Konaté. “Through the show The Coronavirus Explained to Children, we can describe the pandemic in a language that is accessible to them.”
According to the Deputy Director of the National Health Department and a regular guest of the show, Abdoulaye Guindo, “Mikado FM provides remarkable public service work by the quality of its programmes and its broad reach in our country, where radio is an important media. Mikado FM doesn’t only provide quality information, it is also very useful in managing rumours that are often dangerous in today’s environment.”
Dispelling misinformation and disinformation
Providing accurate information, countering rumours, and identifying false news is the objective of the programme Le Vrai du Faux (“True from False”), which launched three months ago. Its host, Aboubacar Dicko, responds quickly to debunk fake stories circulating on social networks. “Contrary to rumours on WhatsApp, holding your breath for 10 seconds without coughing doesn’t mean that you are not vulnerable to the Coronavirus, or any other lung disease”, posts Aboubacar Dicko on Mikado FM’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. “You have to stay proactive,” he says while preparing for his next show. “On social media, we are on high alert, because false information is spreading faster than the pandemic.”
The United Nations Radio in Mali has developed a multimedia approach in gathering information and broadcasting its programmes to reach a broad audience. One recent example is the campaign Artists against the Coronavirus with Mikado FM. “We asked renowned Malian artists, such as Amadou and Mariam, Oumou Sangaré, Cheick Tidiane Seck and Ami Koita to record video messages in French and in national languages to raise awareness on the pandemic, and promote the protective measures one can take against the coronavirus,” said Karim Djinko, Chief of the radio. The video messages are disseminated through social media, Mikado FM programmes, and dozens of partner radios in different regions across the country.
More than ever before, Mikado FM is working around the clock to ensure that no one is left behind, and that communities feel they have a trusted partner, as they, like the rest of the world, attempt to undertake appropriate individual and collective measures to contain the virus.