CONTAINMENT

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From Music to Malaria: Rural Radio Key for Malaria Education

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CONTAINMENT’s Moeun Chhean Nariddh profiles a popular interactive radio program on malaria education broadcast from Battambang.

Soeum Chamnan , the radio presenter in Battambang. Pix by WHO/sonny krishnan

As the sun sets in a late afternoon in Cambodia’s Battambang province, many housewives, shopkeepers, farmers and others stay glued to their radio sets to listen to music and songs played from FM radio stations along both sides of the Steung Sangke – a legendary river that was embroidered in many fond Khmer love songs and romantic music from the 1960s and 1970s.

Before too long, this entertainment comes to an abrupt end on the Chamkar Chek National Radio as the clock strikes 5pm.

Unlike the DJs at other private stations who continue playing music or singing karaoke songs along with their listeners, Soeum Chamnan at Chamkar Chek Radio is now engaged in a more serious radio show. She changes from entertaining her audience to helping save lives of people who are at risk of getting malaria.

For an hour from 5pm to 6pm, every Friday, Chamnan’s task is to coordinate a radio talk show, jointly produced by the USAID-funded Malaria Control in Cambodia, Equal Access and the National Malaria Control Center, during which listeners pose questions to experts about how to protect themselves and get treatment for the mosquito-borne disease. The radio program is also fully funded by USAID.

“Darling, don’t forget to sleep in the insecticide treated net that I have packed for you,” the wife reminds her husband.

This afternoon, she has a special guest speaker: Dr. Ouk Vichea, Director of the Battambang Malaria Program.

After an opening remark to introduce the talk show, Chamnan switches on the microphone for her guest speaker to begin the dialogue with the first caller.

“I have a few questions, but I am so new and afraid to ask,” 28-year-old Kosal, from Rokha Kiri district, tells Dr. Vichea.

“No problem!” he responds, “Please, go ahead.”

“Some people in my village who have malaria don’t have money or the means to get treatment. How can they do it?” asks Kosal, who used to have malaria himself a few years ago.

“Does your village have a health center?” Chamnan interrupts.

“Yes, it does. It’s about 20-30 kilometers away,” Kosal continues.

“I know the health center is far away, but you can ask the village chief about the village malaria workers.” Dr. Vichea advises. “They have the means to do blood test for malaria, and if they find out that you have malaria, they will provide treatment free of charge.”

Like all other callers, the malaria expert poses a question to Kosal to test his knowledge about how malaria is transmitted.

“Malaria is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. We, Khmers, call it the nail mosquito.” Kosal answers confidently.

“You are correct,” Dr. Vichea responds.

The phone in the studio rings again. It’s a call from Meta, a 22-year-old student from Battambang town, who also had malaria when she was 13. As a university student, her queries appear more knowledgeable.

“Why are pregnant women and children under five more at risk of getting malaria?” she throws in her question.”

“Thank you for your question,” the malaria expert replies.

“As you know, pregnant women need nutrients to feed herself and her baby,” he explains. “So her immunity becomes weak; second, children’s immunity from the mothers goes down after six months old.”

He adds: “So, when they have malaria, they face a serious danger. Therefore, they must consult the doctor immediately when they suspect that they have malaria.”

After a few dialogues with the listeners who have called in, Chamnan calls for a break and announces another quiz for the audience to send text messages to the program.

“The question is: if you don’t have malaria, what benefits do you have?” she plays the clip with her recorded voice. “If your answer is correct, you will get a prize!”

It’s now 6pm and the talk show ends. Chamnan counts seven callers on her show today and she announces the end of the program.

“Thank you, Doctor, and the listeners,” she concludes.

Her guest speaker, Dr. Vichea, removes his head phones with a smile and begins a casual talk with people in the studio. He says the radio talk show program has played a significant role that contributes to the government’s National Malaria Eradication Plan.

He notes that the program has substantially improved people’s knowledge about malaria. “In the past, their knowledge was very low,” Dr. Vichea recalls.

He says in the past people were still afraid of having their mosquito nets impregnated with insecticide. “Now, many people have participated,” he adds.

Throughout the whole talk show program, Chamnan seems very confident and friendly the way she facilitates the discussion and dialogue between the malaria expert and the callers.

However, it’s not new for her.

Chamnan says she has been working on the radio talk show about malaria education for two years since the program started in 2009. However, she admits that things were difficult for her in the beginning.

“Most people who had malaria were in the forests and most of the people who participated in our program at the beginning were in the town,” she explains. However, she says people in remote areas started to learn about her program about two months later and she started to receive more calls in every new show.

According to Khorn Linna, a communication specialist with Malaria Control in Cambodia, the idea to produce the malaria education program was based on several focused group discussions with mobile migrant workers who are in the high-risk group for the disease.

“In the FGDs we found out that they liked face-to-face communication and conversations. So, we thought that an interactive radio talk show between the callers and guest speakers would work well.”

Linna acknowledges that she wrote the script for the promotion spot to be played at the beginning and between the radio talk show. It’s a typical conversation between wife and husband before he goes to work in the field and that jingle is currently a hit among mobile migrant workers in Battambang and Pailin.

“Darling, don’t forget to sleep in the insecticide treated net that I have packed for you,” the wife reminds her husband.

“I love you and my kids, so I will try to avoid getting malaria,” her husband replies. “I will always sleep in the insecticide treated mosquito net.”

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Written by malariacontainment

July 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

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