In spring 2020, Micheweni FM, the first community radio station in Zanzibar islands, broadcast news stories and programs about COVID-19 that encouraged listeners, especially women living in the coastal areas, to alert the authorities about fishermen returning from the sea via unofficial ports, so they could be quarantined on arrival.
Many fishermen routinely return home through any one of 172 unofficial ports and could easily escape the official entry-point procedures set up to test them for COVID-19.
Those radio broadcasts reached close to 8,000 listeners, and as a result, two hundred returning fishermen were subsequently quarantined in Micheweni district.
“At first, on returning from sea, I was angry, but I learned a lot,” said Haji Khamis, a local fisherman. “Now, I thank my family for reporting me to be quarantined. Although I tested negative, I learned the importance of protecting my family and I advise other fishermen to self-quarantine.”
“Our community radio station helped us to understand why we should report our fisherman husbands, so they could be quarantined on landfall and tested for COVID-19,” said Bisofi Mohd Mziray, a radio station listener. “This kept our families safe.”
Journalists who work at Micheweni FM were provided stipends and mentored by Internews to help them accurately report on COVID-19. Senior journalist Time Khamis Mwinyi says this support reinforced and improved coverage of the everyday, human impact of the virus.
Micheweni FM Station Manager Ali Massoud added that the support “helps us to use new technologies, to map our work to listeners’ needs and protect our community. Our programs touch people’s daily lives with a balance of official and expert opinion. We try to highlight the needs of a diverse community, regardless of our listeners’ social, economic, or political status.”
Omar Khamis Hamad, a fisherman who was quarantined for two weeks after entering the country said, “Quarantine camp was useful; health experts told us all about the risks of COVID-19. We heard that our local radio was involved, and we are grateful.”
The radio has been supported by Boresha Habari (“Better News”), a five-year media and civil society strengthening program implemented by Internews in Tanzania and funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID).