By Chadrack Tambwe Londe
October 2, 2018 | KINDU, Congo
Since the repeated outbreaks of Ebola in several provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The United Methodist Church, in partnership with Harper Hill Global, has worked in the prevention and control of the disease through a communications strategy that includes a new song called “Lavage Des Mains.”
The song was written by the communication team of The United Methodist Church in East Congo to promote handwashing. Gabriel Losoma, one of the young artists, who participated in the recording locally in Kindu is happy to have put his voice in this health education song. “Since I’ve been an artist, I have never thought of making a song about hand washing that is so important for our health,” says this young artist.
Losoma thinks he will continue to compose more songs related to health education.
The Ebola virus appeared once more in July in Mangina, Beni territory of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after it had been under control in the province of Ecuador. As of Sunday, September 23, 2018, the Congolese Ministry of Health informed that a total of 149 cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in the region, including 116 confirmed and 31 probable. Of the 116 confirmed, 68 died and 40 are cured. 13 suspected cases are under investigation. While the fight against Ebola continues in Mangina, a new case has been recorded in Mandima Health Zone, Mambasa Territory in Ituri Province.
Several humanitarian actors are mobilized in the fight against the Ebola virus disease in the DRC. Harper Hill Global specializes in communications that reduce human suffering, and works with interfaith networks for grassroots participation.
Judith Osongo, Communications Director of the East Congo region of The United Methodist Church, indicates that to carry out this campaign, radio programs have been produced and are broadcast through several information channels as well as sending text messages to the population to make this prevention effective. “For John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, physical health was as important as spiritual health,” according to Ministry Matters.
In Kindu, this campaign is broadcast on two local radio stations namely Radio Maniema Libertés and Radio Mushauri. Kasimu Bin Mussa, Director of Maniema Libertés Radio, said the campaign is being carried out at a time when the east is fighting Ebola. “That’s why we accepted without hesitation to broadcast the song and educational spots beyond what we agreed with Harper Hill Global, the partner of the United Methodist Church in Eastern Congo,” he says.
The educational and song spots produced by Harper Hill Global to fight against dysentery and Ebola were also used by the Director of the Maman Lynn Center, a center that supervises women victims of sexual violence by ensuring their economic and psychological reintegration into the community. In August 2018, Dr. Marie-Claire Dianja toured all three annual conferences of the Eastern Congo Episcopal Region.
“We must be cautious and vigilant not to catch Ebola,” said the Mama Lynn Center director to religious leaders at the Eastern Provinces and Ecuador Annual Conference. Dr. Marie-Claire Dianja reiterated the same message to the religious leaders of the Annual Conference of Eastern Congo and Kivu. Here, she has even projected a video recently re-versioned in Swahili and Lingala to fight against Ebola and have the religious leaders audition an educational song and an educational spot produced as part of the fight against this epidemic.
Dianja believes that washing your hands with clean water, soap or ashes is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against Ebola and many so-called dirty hand diseases; “Washing your hands regularly with clean water, soap or ashes means you do not get Ebola and so-called dirty hand diseases,” said Marie Claire Dianja. She also urged religious leaders to speak wherever they are of the danger of eating dead animals in the bush.
“This song and these educational spots have allowed many United Methodists and even others to get an idea of the importance of handwashing as effective ways to fight Ebola,” says Dr. Marie-Claire Diandja, Director from the KINDU Maternal Lynn Center. She adds that “Beyond preventing Ebola,” washing your hands helps prevent other diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and even typhoid fever,” says Diandja. She has praised this initiative to raise awareness about Ebola prevention through handwashing.
The broadcast of the song and the spots on FM radio has potentially reached more than 300,000 listeners in the city of Kindu and its surroundings, according to the radio directors who broadcast these spots and song about hand washing. Hundreds of thousands of listeners watch their channel news every day through the listeners club system. Kasimu bin Mussa of the Maniema Libertés community radio said: “We have more than 300 listeners’ clubs whose number of members per club varies between 50 and 150.”
The awareness was also made through SMS. “More than 1,000 people have received text messages on their phones about preventive measures against Ebola virus disease,” said Judith Osongo, Communications Director of the Eastern Congo Episcopal Region. She says that the UMConnect massive messaging platform of The United Methodist Church has been used to educate local communities. “We sent messages for the adoption of the handwashing culture,” she says.
“In our messages, we also assure communities that the Ebola outbreak is not a hopeless situation. Ebola is treatable. Many patients survive if they receive proper care as soon as possible. ”
Local radio stations have decided to continue broadcasting the song and educational spots as a contribution to the fight against Ebola in eastern DRC. Kasimu Bin Mussa, Director of Maniema Community Radio TV said “at the request of our listeners, we decided to continue broadcasting beyond the grant received from Harper Hill Global because the situation is serious.” He added that we would like to receive subsidies that will allow us to buy the fuel to extend the hours of operation of the radio and multiply the broadcasts, “he says.
In a correspondence addressed to the Community Radio Maniema Libertés, Minos Bwanambele Kawaya, a member of one of the listeners’ clubs of this radio wrote the following about the song and the educational spots broadcast:
“Congratulations to the Community Radio Maniema Libertés with its partners for having thought to give us information on the prevention and fight against the Ebola virus disease. We suggest you and your partners think about developing other awareness-raising strategies such as the use of actors and musicians in schools and public settings. This will allow people who do not have radios to also receive messages and strategies for Ebola prevention. Thank you for this message about the importance of hand washing that allows us to prevent several diseases.”
Since May 2018, Harper Hill Global has provided almost $3,000 in media production and broadcast grants that distribute Ebola prevention messages to communities most likely to be affected. Help us increase access to lifesaving information. Give now. Read more.