Communicating with communities through microprogrammes

Posted 1st March 2022 by Richard Ronny Linga and Divine Sewornu Dzokoto

Effective communication is critical to Target Malaria’s work in engaging with the communities most affected by malaria. We have found microprogrammes to be a very useful communications tool to inform rural communities of our work, and we are pleased to share our experiences using them in Uganda and Ghana.

Microprogrammes are broadcast in communities through various means: walking with hand-held megaphones; driving around on a truck, using loudspeakers from community centres, and streamed via radio stations. They are either recorded or live audio segments that are shared through a broadcasting system to reach stakeholders in small village settings. Microprogrammes are in a way a modern version of the traditional town crier or gong-gong beater, making announcements to the community.

The script usually includes key messages around Target Malaria’s research, scope of work, and activities in the local area. These programmes are also a way of anticipating any concerns communities may have around potential activities, to highlight how our work is contributing to broader efforts to end malaria, how communities can ask questions and share concerns, and can help reinforce malaria prevention interventions.

In Uganda, microprogrammes about the project have previously been aired on the two island sites of Kansambwe in Mukono district and Jaana in Kalangala district, to create awareness about the project. These were broadcast through community radio platforms and driving around on a truck. Our teams are now preparing to start airing microprogrammes in the coming months about upcoming mosquito collections.

Photos of mounted megaphones in Uganda

Previously, a script for the micro-programmes was developed, translated and recorded in Luganda, the language most spoken in the two islands, with the recordings aired using community megaphones. The islands have several broadcast platforms which play through mounted megaphones, we chose to air using the one with the most listeners.

These microprogrammes ran twice a day between 7am and 8am and 6am and 8pm for a week before the mosquito collection activities took place.

The programme took the form of a conversation between two panellists, who discuss how the team from Target Malaria at the Uganda Virus Research Institute collects mosquitoes. The discussion considers the objectives of mosquito collections in villages, the collection methods, the selection of collection sites, and the need to enter some people’s homes.

In Ghana, micro programmes were used in October 2021 in two communities: Abutia Amegame and Mafi Agorve.

The messages disseminated highlighted the heavy burden of malaria locally and nationally and referenced existing disease control methods. Target Malaria’s research is outlined, as well as the activities that the project carries out in these local communities, which include mosquito and other insect collections and flower identification.

The messages also underscore that Target Malaria seeks permission for the activities carried out; allows local communities to monitor activities the project engages in, and notes the grievance mechanisms which can be used to lodge complaints. Finally, they reiterate the importance of sleeping under bed nets, using indoor residual spray, and seeking medical treatment when necessary.

In Abutia Amegame, a relatively smaller community, we used a handheld megaphone. We stood at four different points in the village and broadcasted information.

In Mafi Agorve, the second, and much bigger community, we used the community’s Communication Centre. This facility is made up of a microphone and horned speakers, mounted on a small building in the middle of the community.