The Broader View: Keeping flood-affected communities in Pakistan informed
Malaria is endemic in Pakistan, and outbreaks always increase during and after the monsoon season. After the devastating floods of 2010, pools and small lakes were left behind that provided ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. People who had lost their homes were forced to sleep outside, making them more vulnerable.
According to the World Health Organization, there were almost 300,000 suspected cases of malaria in flood-affected areas in Punjab and Sindh Provinces, including confirmed cases of the severe falciparum malaria.
In response to this health crisis, the international media-training NGO Internews, and local radio stations Radio Awaz and Radio Highway, produced special health bulletins to inform and educate rural communities on malaria prevention and treatment.
“If you sleep outside because your house was destroyed during the floods, you are vulnerable to mosquitoes and malaria,” said Dr. Mahboob Chandio, a Programme Coordinator with Pakistan’s People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative, in one of the radio health bulletins. “People should use mosquito nets when sleeping at night and they should clear any stagnant water in their area.”
The radio health bulletins, called the Flood Crisis Information Project, provided daily reports and updates on a variety of issues—from health and nutrition, to water and sanitation and vaccination campaigns. Nearly 900 health reports were broadcast from October 2010 to June 2011.
“The radio reports educated us about malaria fevers as well as dengue and their causes. The reports also told us about preventive measures against these diseases,” said Abdul Hameed from Khairpur District in Sindh. “The best thing is that the information is about us.”
The OCHA-managed Emergency Response Fund provided US$467,290 to Internews to help carry out this project. Some of the funding was used to distribute 7,500 radio sets to local communities so that people could listen to the daily health bulletins. In places where there were limited access to radios, Internews and its local partners gathered people to form listening groups. This also gave people an opportunity to discuss the information with the organizers and provide feedback on humanitarian issues and priorities.
Reporting by Internews