by Ndalimpinga Iita
Equipped with an antique battery-powered radio, every day, Liina Mateus from Oshana region in the northern part of Namibia attentively listens to radio programmes dedicated to COVID-19 information.
“I mainly listen to the radio broadcast in the indigenous language as my command of English is not good. I learn a lot about COVID-19, prevention and its management thereof since the outbreak in Namibia,” Mateus said on Saturday.
Information provided daily include updates on the number of cases, regulations and measures put in by Namibians to curb the spread of COVID-19 and debates.
Radio stations in Namibia use their programmes to help educate locals about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among them is the national broadcaster, Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) with ten radio stations through local languages, reaching 78 percent of the population.
Mushitu Mukwame, head of radio services at NBC, said that amid the pandemic, the diverse radio channels and presenters provide factual information through interviews with experts and key officials.
“There is massive information about COVID-19. Each radio station adopts expert content to the context of an audience in respect to language, culture and socio-economic dynamics,” he said.
Radio stations have been strategic and creative in their approach by playing key messages between music intervals and key shows.
Complementary, community radio stations are also using their channels and comprehensive understanding of local context to influence change, said Levi Katire, chairperson of the Namibia Community Broadcaster Network.
Meanwhile, at the grassroots level, the information disseminated via radio has infiltrated various levels, making it possible to relay instructions and combat misinformation.
Leaders are enforcing critical messages on the pandemic, and those who understand better lead by example by adhering to COVID-19 regulations and other measures, said Agatus Timoteus, a leader at a far-flung village in Oshana region.
Meanwhile, officials concur. Emma Theofelus, deputy minister of information and communication technology, said that radio is still the simplest (technically), affordable, effective and widely accessible medium of communication.
“Radio easily adapts to crises and remains instrumental in fighting information overload and misinformation. Radio also provides factual information required for pandemic management such as isolation, quarantine and prevention of COVID-19,” Theofelus said.
According to Theofelus, the provision for listeners’ call-in programmes has enabled socialisation and interactions with the presenters.
“Listeners deem presenters trustworthy due to interactions formed, which helps lessen panic and myths formed,” she said.
Namibia joins the world in commemorating World Radio Day, observed each year on Feb.13.
The celebration of the World Radio Day in Namibia is of great importance, said Djaffar Moussa-Elkadhum, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representative to Namibia.
According to Moussa-Elkadhum, it grants the opportunity to highlight the national broadcasting network’s role in various indigenous languages related to COVID-19 produced by the government with support from the development partners.
“Radio remains essential to our contemporary societies. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of its added value with its penetration of over 75 percent in developing countries. Radio is also a vector for freedom of expression,” he said. Enditem