Why community radio could promote healthy motherhood

Joyce Lage listening to her favourite community radio station. PHOTO |  FILE

What you need to know:

  • Sharing her experience to The Citizen, Ms Lage says the Ruangwa District Council nutrition officer would use the community radio to educate the public on the need to breastfeed their children after every 2 hours.

Dar es Salaam. Community radio could play an important role in promoting positive change in society through dissemination of much-needed information to diverse audiences.

The reasoning of this truth is confirmed by a narration from Joyce Lage, who actively used information from a community radio to transform the life of her prematurely born daughter, Ummy Khamis.

Ms Lage gave birth to her third daughter in 2020, weighing a paltry 1.6 kilogrammes, casting doubts over the possibility of her survival and future life if she were to survive the condition.

Ms Lage struggled to understand the cuases of the baby’s complications and what was needed to raise the child born at seven months of pregnancy.

It was not until she listened to a community radio that aired in her home in Ruangwa District, Lindi Region, that she became aware that the radio played a significant role in imparting transformative information to society.

Sharing her experience to The Citizen, Ms Lage says the Ruangwa District Council nutrition officer would use the community radio to educate the public on the need to breastfeed their children after every 2 hours.

“I made a tentative decision that I must continue listening to the radio program. I started following the directives by breastfeeding my premature baby after every two hours, even during the night hours,” she narrates.

“The baby’s health significantly improved. Currently, she is 2 years and 8 months old, weighing 14 kilogrammes,” says Joyce, insisting that breastfeeding her baby after every two hours was a turning point in the life of her life and that of her child.

Ms Lage says she used the radio programme to access the nutrition officer’s contacts, thus enabling her to continue receiving off-air directions and encouragements that enabled her to enjoy the transformative wonders of breastfeeding.

In her own words, after one month of extensive breastfeeding, the baby’s health had changed drastically, baffling everyone, including the nurses at the clinic she attended at the time.

“I would like to encourage fellow women going down the same path to remain hopeful and continue taking good care of their children, emphasising good breastfeeding,” she says.

The information disseminated was an intervention by USAID's Public Sector Systems Strengthening Plus (PS3+) and Boresha Habari in collaboration with the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG).

The disseminated information delved into citizens’ rights to participate in village meetings, the availability of loans for women, youth, and people with disabilities, insights on local budget and planning, as well as mechanisms for giving feedback to citizens.

Capacity-building training was conducted to train journalists on how to customise radio messages in order to increase engagement and relevance to local audiences.

The health programme not only provided Ms Lage with essential knowledge on breastfeeding but also enabled her to improve the health of her baby, proving that proper information can be an essential tool to empower the community.

She also says that she enjoys listening to the radio station that highlights pertinent issues such as attending village meetings, participation in the construction of village offices, and the construction of toilets in schools, among others.

Community radios ensure that people make informed decisions, therefore contributing to improved family welfare and the community in general.

The Tanzania Development Information Organisation (Tadio) web site shows that the country has over 43 community radio stations, reaching over 33 million people and covering 70 percent of the country.

The USAID Public Sector Systems Strengthening (PS3+) is a five-year project funded by the US government and implemented through the USAID with support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).

The project’s overall objective is to strengthen government systems at both national and local levels to improve the access, use, and quality of service deliveries across agriculture, education, health, and other sectors, with a major focus on support for underserved population.