The World Association for Christian Communication is creating a rapid response fund to help support grassroots community media outlets that provide accurate, trusted coronavirus-related information to vulnerable people who often cannot access mainstream media. Individuals and organisations are encouraged to contribute to the fund.
"The pandemic has reminded us of just how critical access to accurate information and trustworthy communication platforms is," said Lorenzo Vargas, World Association for Christian Communication program manager for Communication for Social Change. “Many of these communities are not reached by information provided by governments and mainstream commercial or public media.”
Vital grassroots media networks are offering lifesaving information in unique ways, and even small donations to the fund will make significant local impact.
In Ecuador, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon is bringing crucial information about COVID-19 to local indigenous communities. When the Ecuadorian government issued a state of emergency on 15 March, and began issuing information mainly in Spanish, the confederation began to immediately translate that information into the languages of various Amazonian cultures.
The group also translated official information about COVID-19 from the World Health Organization.
“Ecuador is a multi-national country that officially recognizes two indigenous languages – Kichwa and Shuar,” explained the confederation’s director, Andres Tapia.
In Nepal, the Indigenous Community Radio Network of Nepal said it was prompted to take action because it didn’t see any public service announcements about the disease targeted specifically for indigenous people.
Nepal’s indigenous people are especially vulnerable to the pandemic, because of economic and food insecurity, as well as being cut off from services.
The Indigenous Community Radio Network, in partnership with Indigenous Television, jointly produced public service announcements about COVID-19 in 15 different Indigenous languages, and in one Nepali. These have been distributed not only to 21 indigenous radio stations, but to 350 community radio stations across Nepal.
Syrian refugees are also extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, and a community radio station in Amman, Jordan, is making sure their plight is not forgotten.
Radio Al Balad, operated by the Community Media Network, has been using its airwaves to call attention to the impact of COVID-19 on refugees.
Jordan hosts 656,000 registered refugees from the nine-year conflict in neighbouring Syria, according to the UNHCR, and like the rest of the country, has been on lockdown since 21 March.
“Syrian refugees are largely cooped up in camps and other locations,” said Community Media Network spokesperson Daoud Kuttab. “So far, no reports have been made about any Syrian refugee having contracted the coronavirus. However, it is not clear if the reason is lack of contact or lack of testing.”
There are fears that if refugees get infected, COVID-19 could easily spread in the camps since thousands live in tight quarters. The camps are equipped only with basic health and sanitation facilities, according to the UNHCR.
Kuttab added: “If the virus spreads, there will be a lot of pressure on Jordan’s medical communities.”
The education and livelihood of camp residents have also been affected by the lockdown. “Most Syrians work in day jobs which have all stopped because of the lockdown,” said Kuttab.
The World Association for Christian Communication’s current network includes 39 community radio partners – many of them attached to hundreds of indigenous and community radio stations working in local languages. The network also includes over 40 active civil society and faith-based groups working with marginalized populations, including migrants and refugees, who are under increasing vulnerability due to restrictions on movement and assistance, discrimination, poverty, and language barriers.
Visit www.waccglobal.org for more information and to support the fund.