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For several weeks, the programmes produced as part of the MediaSahel project have been adapted to the current health crisis. New content to provide information and raise awareness among the populations of the Sahel region has been developed thanks to additional support from the French Development Agency (AFD).
Having first appeared at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China, Covid-19 rapidly spread across all continents during the first quarter of 2020. On 11 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the outbreak as a pandemic. Although originally unscathed by the virus, Africa has now been affected with over 18,000 confirmed cases. Covid-19 has already taken the lives of more than 900 people on the continent, according to the African Union Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
In light of this, there has been a surge in programmes tackling this global health crisis. The African media, in particular in the Sahel region, are reporting, as best they can, on the development of the crisis in their respective countries. However, this increase in content is opening up avenues for an explosion of fake news and the transmission of low-quality programmes. Some media outlets do not or no longer have access to scientific information. As a result, the people of the Sahel region, and in particular young people, who represent a larger and more vulnerable group, have been inundated with information and are no longer able to differentiate truth from lie, useful content from useless.
Following the development of the pandemic and relaying health advice
Quality information is, however, essential for following the pandemic and relaying health advice (prevention behaviours) and measures taken by governments (quarantine, curfew, confinement), so as to analyse the data and track down fake news. People also need hope (positive initiatives, solutions) and diversions to escape the anxiety-provoking side of the crisis and to increase compliance with the various awareness-raising messages.
In order to fight fake news, raise awareness of good behaviour among the population and allow youth initiatives to emerge, MediaSahel has been producing and broadcasting reliable and quality content on the coronavirus for several weeks, as well as offering new information programmes for the populations in the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger).
Special radio programmes and videos aimed at raising awareness
A series of 36 special programmes on the coronavirus, produced by UNALFA (Burkina Faso's national union of free audiovisual media outlets), will be broadcast on over 60 radios stations in Burkina Faso between April and July 2020, while a series of 12 synchronised radio programmes on Covid-19 produced by URTEL (Mali's union of free radio broadcasters and television stations) will be broadcast in the Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso, Ségou, Mopti, Tombouctou, Gao, Kidal regions and the district of Bamako over the same period.
20 humorous videos aimed at raising awareness of coronavirus, translated into more than 10 local languages, will also be broadcast between April and July on social networks in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal and via nine partner television stations. Between April and August, the "Priorité Santé" [health priority] programme produced by RFI will offer 20 video spots, translated into four African languages, aimed at deconstructing and raising awareness of false information associated with coronavirus. Lastly, 12 weekly programmes produced by RAES will be broadcast on RFI, the network of radio stations in partnership with MediaSahel and the NGO, Alliance Droits et Santé. The project will also support local radio stations in their efforts to produce programmes dedicated to the pandemic.