Radio is a powerful tool that helps inform, transform and unite us. In a health emergency, it can also become a lifeline.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo)’s worst Ebola outbreak in history, radio is being used to engage communities about the virus – a cornerstone in stopping its spread.

This is the first time that Ebola has found its way into North Kivu, an area where there is complex and violent conflict, escalating the risk of its spread to other provinces and neighbouring countries. The outbreak is further complicated by significant community resistance, fed by fear, rumours and stigma, which can counter humanitarian efforts.

Burundi Red Cross radio programme provides Ebola messages to communities close to the border with DRC

That is why volunteers are ramping up efforts to collaborate with communities. Through radio, mobile cinemas and house-to-house visits, volunteers are building trust and collecting rumours, suspicions and concerns into a tracking system. More than 100,000 comments have been collected so far.

“This system helps address fears and misinformation, and to encourage people to protect themselves and their families,” says Eva Erlach, Community Engagement Delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Radio programmes have also given the opportunity for Ebola survivors to engage with communities, allowing them to share their experiences and help tackle the rumours and stigma related to the disease.

In neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi where the risk of its spread remains high, Red Cross staff and volunteers are conducting radio sessions that help address some of community’s fear of Ebola. The programmes are not only disseminating information about the disease and its transmission but also providing an opportunity to voice concerns, discuss and ask questions.

“Radio assists us in bringing communities together,” says Eva. “It uses diverse voices from the community, enabling them to define their own solutions.”