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7-Language Radio Show in Zambia Spurs COVID-19 Awareness

Read why this nun's radio show translates COVID-19 health info into the languages of Zambia.
(Photo credit: Banda Jeremiah from npr.org)

When it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19, making sure everyone has access to the latest health tips is one of the most important factors. If that information is being relayed in a language you cannot understand, however, you could be missing out on potentially life-saving information and practices. 

Astridah Banda, a Dominican nun in Zambia, realized this was an issue that many were facing in her country, and so she decided to do something about it. Her work hosting a multi-language radio show caught the attention of NPR’s Goats and Soda global health and development blog. Here’s what we learned about this inspiring nun from the article. 

Prior to the pandemic, Banda hosted a radio show that aired for 15 minutes each week and discussed maternal and child health. Now, she uses her show to spread COVID-19 awareness and tips for more than 1.5 million listeners in her country. Rather than taking a serious — sometimes intimidating — approach to sharing COVID-19 health information, Banda opts for a more conversational approach to share useful, everyday tips for her program’s 1.5 million listeners. Her radio program sounds more like a talk show than a health bulletin. 

English is Zambia’s official language, but the country’s 17 million citizens speak more than 70 languages and dialects. A radio show in English would not serve the whole country’s needs, so Banda saw an opportunity to share COVID-19 information in local languages and dialects — particularly those of the Bantu family — in both urban and rural areas.  

Banda’s radio program goes beyond basic needs and shares community stories in local dialects. NPR reports the radio show is panel-style and resembles an easygoing conversation — inviting listeners to call-in, tell stories, and ask questions in their everyday language. When a featured panelist starts speaking, they repeat the COVID-19 updates and information from previous speakers in their local language. This repetition in various dialects allows for a more expansive understanding of the show’s content. 

While fulfilling a linguistic and healthcare need in her country, Banda and her team still have some on-air fun — all while explaining the purpose of masks, the temperature checks at various places, and general COVID-19 updates. They joke with the callers and even do giveaways: masks and cleaning supplies.

We can all learn something from Banda’s lighthearted yet intentional approach to sharing helpful tips. She inspires us to do all that we can to spread information and help our families, our communities, and our countries during this time. Language and location should not be barriers for obtaining life-saving health practices and tips, and protecting our human family falls on all of us.

Read the whole article from NPR’s Goats and Soda blog to learn more about Sister Astridah Banda’s radio show out of Lusaka, Zambia. 

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