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Mikado FM: a peace radio in the age of the Coronavirus

The United Nations radio in Mali was already essential in consolidating peace and promoting harmony and coexistence. In these times of COVID-19 Global pandemic, Mikado FM has started a race against the clock: contributing in its own way to saving lives.

The phone doesn’t stop ringing in Mikado FM’s main studio in Bamako, during the show Midikado, one of the most popular United Nations radio broadcasts in Mali. "Tell me the basic protective measures you can take to protect yourself and others from the Coronavirus", asks Ben Junior Kambiré in his cheerful voice. He is the host of this quiz show intended to test its listeners’ knowledge on covid-19 while entertaining them.

"Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose," replies Salomé Dembélé, an elementary school teacher who is calling from Bamako. She adds: "You must also avoid crowds, cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze and seek medical attention as soon as possible when you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. But before going to the doctor, you must first call ahead. " Good answer! She will later receive a gift for her successful participation, like other Midikado winners.

Over the years, the peace radio has become close to its audience all around the country. Its interactive programming gives people a voice, in addition to documenting their daily concerns.

Nowadays when Mali is being hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, Ben Junior Kambiré has never felt so useful to his community. "Between two questions on the COVID-19, I play songs to raise awareness of the pandemic as well as public service messages," he explains.

His colleagues in charges for information programs in national languages share the same feeling. After Midikado, they will go on air to present the latest news on COVID-19 in Bambara, Songhay, Tamasheq, Fulani and Arabic.

Since its launch by the United Nations Mission in Mali in 2015, the peace radio has been committed to communicating with listeners in French, but also in the main languages of the country. French remains inaccessible for a large part of the Malian population.

"Remarkable public service work"

Some of Mikado FM's programs are particularly relevant to help raise public awareness about the Coronavirus pandemic. For example, Objectif Santé is a weekly magazine devoted to health and well-being.

Each week, the show’s guests include Mali’s World Health Organization representative, Dr. Jean-Pierre Baptiste, along with national health authorities who provide the latest news on the pandemic. A psychologist is also invited to help analyze and reduce the impacts of the crisis on mental health.

The show doesn’t leave children behind", we produce spots in which we answer children's questions about COVID-19", says Mikado FM’s well-known radio host Mimi Konaté. With the show, The coronavirus explained to children, we can explain the pandemic in a language that is accessible to them."

The Deputy Director of the National Health Department, Abdoulaye Guindo, is a regular on the show, “Mikado FM provides remarkable public service work by the quality of its programs and its broad reach in our country where radio is an important media. Mikado FM doesn’t only provide quality information; it is also very useful in managing rumors that are often dangerous in today's environment."

Hunting for fake news

Informing, but above all countering rumors and identifying false news: this is the goal of the program Le Vrai du faux (“True from False”) launched three months ago. The least we can say is that its host Aboubacar Dicko has no time to rest with so many rumors and false information on social networks. Fake stories must be debunked quickly to set the record straight. "Contrary to rumors on WhatsApp, holding your breath for 10 seconds without coughing or being affected doesn’t mean that you are not vulnerable to Covid-19, or any other lung disease" posts Aboubacar Dicko on Mikado FM’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. "You have to stay proactive," he explains while preparing his next show. “On social media, we have to be alert because false information spreads faster than the pandemic."

The United Nations Radio in Mali has developed a multimedia approach in gathering information and broadcasting its programs to reach the greatest number of people. One recent example is the campaign Artists Against the Coronavirus with Mikado FM. “We asked renowned Malian artists such as Amadou and Mariam, Oumou Sangaré, Cheick Tidiane Seck, Ami Koita to record video messages in French and in national languages to raise awareness about how to prevent Covid-19 and good practices to protect against the disease" said Karim Djinko, Chief of Radio. The video messages are broadcasted on social media and as radio spots on Mikado FM. The message is also relayed by dozens of partner radios in different regions across the country.

More than ever Mikado FM is working around the clock to ensure no one is left behind and that the people of Mali has a trusted partner in the shared struggle to take the appropriate individual and collective measures to contain the virus.