18 March 2014

Solomon Island youth to use radio to save lives

Youths and WASH stakeholders from various organizations
© UNICEF Pacific/2014/ATahu
In early March 2014, 6 youth from the Solomon Islands were trained to produce an interactive radio show to engage with other youth around this Pacific island nation and promote awareness and adoption of life saving key family practices focusing on water, sanitation, hygiene, health, child protection and education.

Almost every day a Solomon Islander dies from illness related to unsafe water sources, poor sanitation facilities and unhygienic practices. Results from a recent survey also indicate that 1 out of every 5 children under the age of five have had recent skin or eye infections resulting from poor hygiene and lack of access to safe clean water and sanitation. 

Another adverse impact of this situation is that especially women and girls in the capital Honiara’s poorest communities face high risk of physical and sexual violence especially when collecting water, bathing or using toilets at night. The survey has also captured that while almost all mothers can identify critical times when hand washing can prevent the spread of disease, 90 percent of their children do not have a place to wash their hands.

The poor sanitation and hygiene issues in Solomon Islands was a major factor behind the dengue fever outbreak in March 2013 which resulted in the loss of several lives. The key reason being that poor household sanitation creates perfect breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that spread the sometimes lethal dengue fever. 
Angeline Maeli and Joseph Gale conducting a mock interview.
Angeline played the role of the interviewer and Joseph the interviewee.
© UNICEF Pacific/2014/ATahu
This first youth radio talkback show in Solomon Islands will facilitate open and interactive dialogue amongst youths across the country, discussing and sharing issues and experiences with water, sanitation and hygiene in their communities and identify possible solutions appropriate to their local needs and opportunities. 

To achieve this the youths have been trained to conduct the show not only with the traditional phone call format, but also incorporating text messaging and social media to gain maximum youth participation within the country and abroad. The program is scheduled to be aired live on the Solomon Islands National Broadcasting Cooperation (SIBC), the country’s only nation-wide broadcaster, to reach the 80 percent of the rural population as well.

During the week long training the youth were introduced to audio recorders and radio soft-wares to enable them to conduct and edit interviews planned for replay during the show. These interviews will focus on programmes and plans of the government, non-government organizations and key partners working to improve water, sanitation and hygiene. 

Representatives from organizations responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene will also be invited occasionally hosting the show alongside the youths to provide answers and clear doubts that might be raised through the show depending on the topic for the week. 

This is crucial as it will pave way for flow of information and knowledge sharing with communities. From experience, projects involving installation of water and sanitation hardware in communities across the country have not been much of a success story. Broken water pipes, damaged toilets and latrines beyond repair is evident nearly across all communities. Therefore it is essential to tap into local knowledge, needs and solutions to come up with better and more effective water, sanitation and hygiene programmes and initiatives.

In some communities where sanitation facilities are well kept, often they are not used because communities are much more focused in showing donor organizations on how well they are looking after the facilities rather than looking after their health.

Because of this, although millions of dollars have been spent on installing water and sanitation facilities in communities across the country by the government, aid donors and partners over the past years, over half of the people living in Honiara settlements still defecate in the open and cannot access or do not use latrines or toilets while 4 out of 5 people in rural Solomon Islands do not have access to or use safe toilets or latrines. 

The new live youth radio talkback show therefore aims to address this situation by taking an approach to inform, educate and communicate to the people the significance of using safe and clean water, proper sanitation facilities and hygiene practices through and save lives.

With this the youths were properly equipped with the necessary knowledge on issues of WASH in Solomon Islands, consequences of poor WASH and the danger it poses to the country’s future during the workshop.

The weekly radio talk back show, soon to be launched by SIBC is part of UNICEF’s comprehensive multi- media initiative to support the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services to promote lifesaving key family practices. While initially focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene, and other lifesaving practices it is the vision of UNICEF and SIBC that the programme will become a viable and integral platform for youth-led social communication for development in Solomon Islands.

By Atenia Tahu
Communication for Development Officer, UNICEF Solomon Islands

No comments:

Post a Comment