Survivor testimonies as an information strategy in Guinea

As Guinea continues to battle the Ebola virus disease,  Studio Hirondelle Guinea, directed by Martin Faye, is adapting to the information needs of the population, and countering rumor as soon as they surface. He spoke to Dominique Jaccard in late December.

Dominique Jaccard: What strategy has Studio Hirondelle Guinea adopted on Ebola?

Martin Faye: We have produced features on the disease, ways to prevent it, what to do when you suspect an Ebola case. Then we also had a radio campaign with spots of maximum one minute giving testimonies from people who have recovered from Ebola. The aim is to fight the quite widespread belief here – not only in the country but also in the capital — that the disease doesn’t exist, that politicians are manipulating the population. People who have recovered tell us “I was sick with Ebola, this is what happened and how I was treated, and now I am cured”.

DJ: Where are these spots and features broadcast?

MF: They are broadcast on the national radio, which for about a month has had special slots dedicated to the campaign against Ebola, and on a network of 23 rural radio stations. That reaches all the population. The programmes are produced in the country’s main languages: French but also Malinké, Soussou, Peul and Toma. Toma is one of the languages of Guinea’s Forest region where the epidemic started. Languages are important, so everyone can hear at least one spot in a language they understand.

DJ: How were the information needs identified?

MF: We get research and opinion poll reports from the national communication unit, which is led by UNICEF and to which Studio Hirondelle Guinea belongs like other media actors. These reports show that many people are in denial, saying they don’t believe in Ebola. They provide information about behaviour and the perception of the disease. All this helps us to better target what we put in our productions.

DJ: Do you think the information about Ebola in Guinea is satisfactory?

MF: I think it is starting to bear fruit. Whereas before many sick people were hidden to keep them from isolation in health centres, now they are gradually being brought from homes to health centres. Because one of the key messages is to tell people to go there very quickly to have a chance of being cured.

Photo: An aerial view of Guéckédou, Guinea. UN News and Photo.