A Radio Drama in Malawi Entertains a Healthier Community

For two years, Emily Yona’s children were frequently sick with malaria and had to be hospitalized. Their poor health took a financial toll on the young Malawian family as Yona and her husband, a wood cutter, struggled to pay hospital bills. What’s more, Emily was frequently forced to stay home to care for her son and daughter rather than sell tomatoes at the local market.

Emily and her husband didn’t understand why the disease struck so often until she accidentally caught an episode of the radio serial “Moyo ndi Mpamba” (Life is Precious).

“It was just as if they had made the program for me,” says Emily, 28. “They were talking about the need to sleep in an insecticide-treated mosquito net every night all year round. There is a woman by the name of Nasilina [in the program] who got sick because she did not sleep in a mosquito net and this is exactly what we were doing. I made a decision that I and my family are going to sleep in a mosquito net every night throughout the year.”

Emily’s decision to use bed nets nightly is precisely the result “Moyo ndi Mpamba” set out to achieve. Since 2014, the Ministry of Health in Malawi has been producing and broadcasting the “Moyo ndi Mpamba” (Life is Precious) as part of the CCP-led Service Delivery Integration (SSDI) project.

The entertainment education program showcases role models the audience can identify with and learn from. Maternal health, poor nutrition and diarrheal diseases are also addressed in the program, which to date has reached 55 percent of its target audience, according to CCP Team Leader Chancy Mauluka. Listeners become involved in the daily lives of the drama’s characters, relate to the challenges they face and how they address or cope with them, he says.

The program capitalizes on Facebook and SMS to reinforce healthy behaviors and provide feedback for further programming. “Alternative feedback platforms could have been letters and phone calls, but letters take long to arrive, and phone calls are way more expensive than SMS,” Chancy explains “The Facebook platform allows audience members to interact, sparking interpersonal discussions that expand into community forums.”

Until she heard Nasilina’s story on “Moyo ndi Mpamba,” the Yona family regarded their bed nets as decorations. But the drama made Emily want to change her family’s behavior, and she is now making sure that the entire family sleeps nightly under an insecticide treated mosquito net.

Midnight visits to the hospital have stopped and Yona can again go to market and sell tomatoes.

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