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UNESCO-supported community radio plays major role in fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone

A UNESCO-supported community radio station in Sierra Leone is making a major contribution in the control of the Ebola Epidemic. Radio Bintumani, the only community radio in Koinadugu District of Sierra Leone, was recently funded by UNESCO to expand its coverage and to ensure that broadcasts are carried out for longer hours.

Koinadugu is the only district in Sierra Leone where there have been no cases of Ebola so far, though it borders the Republic of Guinea, where the current Ebola outbreak was first reported. The district’s council, together with other organizations, set up an Ebola Task Force, which has been very effective using the radio to pass on information to the community.

Coverage of Radio Bintumani was limited, until recently, due to a lack of a standby generator and transmission equipment. Through its International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), UNESCO provided $20,000, which has enabled the radio station to broadcast for longer hours and with wider coverage, reaching the entire district.

An Ebola outbreak was first reported in the Republic of Guinea in March 2014. Since then, Ebola has spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. According to WHO, by 30 July 2014 there were 1440 suspected cases and 826 reported deaths. This outbreak is the most lethal of the five known strains of the virus. It is called Ebola Zaire and can kill up to 9 out of 10 infected people. The present case fatality rate in this outbreak is around 60%.

The severity of the outbreak is a result of weaknesses in national healthcare systems, community fear, resistance and stigmatization, inappropriate use of personal protective equipment and unsafe burial practices. During the current outbreak, most of the disease has spread through human-to-human transmission.