Giving quake-affected communities a voice through radio

By Ly Nguyen, IFRC

Between the 13 and 17 February, the Lao Red Cross Society’s communication and fundraising delegates visited Nepal to learn from the Nepal Red Cross Society’s experience in community radio programme.

This is part of Lao Red Cross Society’s effort make radio programmes more engaging and responsive to the community’s needs. Since 2008, the Lao Red Cross Society has been running a radio programme which focuses on providing information on Red Cross activities, International Humanitarian Law, disaster preparedness and response, disease prevention, hygiene promotion and blood donation. The programme includes a hotline to allow audiences to ask questions and provide feedback.

During the trip, the delegation met with BBC Media Action and the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal, and visited the Red Cross Chapter and community in Kavre, one of the districts running the programme.

“It was very insightful hearing about Nepal Red Cross Society’s experiences, and how they engage with communities to collect stories,” says Phonekham Keovilay, Acting Director of the Communication and Fundraising Department at the Lao Red Cross Society. “Seeing the volunteers interview community members was an inspiring experience for me. Now I know I can do the same with blood donors or those who received support from the Lao Red Cross Society.”

Following the Nepal earthquake in 2015, the Nepal Red Cross has been running bi-weekly community radio programmes to broadcast life-saving information, Red Cross activities and recovery information on shelter and livelihoods in response to the community’s needs. The programme has trained volunteers from 14 of the worst quake-affected districts to carry out interviews with community members and use their story to inform other communities across the country about practical disaster response, recovery and preparedness practices.

The radio programme is linked with other platforms including social media, hotlines, newspapers as well as community mobilizers to ensure the Red Cross reaches everyone in the community.

“What makes the programme successful is its community engagement component,” says Dibya Poudel, Head of the Humanitarian Values and Communication Department at Nepal Red Cross Society. “We provide a format that is very easy to follow, give priority to community voices, have a question at the end for our listeners, and keep the conversation natural and simple.”

The first community radio programme in Laos, Khoun Community Radio, only started in 2008. Since then, there have been very few community radio initiatives in the country, but this is what the Lao Red Cross Society is working towards.

“After the trip, I have been inspired to make the programme more participatory and more relevant to the community, and to bring community voices into the programme,” says Keovilay.