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"I watched my house crumble to the ground destroying everything we owned", Bernardo recalls as he shows us what is left of his house. Credit: OCHA/Saviano Abreu
The first thing that came to mind to 56-year-old Bernardo Zimo was the radio warnings he heard prior to Cyclone Idai making landfall in Central Mozambique on 15 March 2019. It was around midnight and winds outside his family home sounded angrier than what he had experienced before, as such storms are a norm in Mozambique. Bernardo, his wife and four children held on to each other and to dear life and suddenly they were wet realizing their roof had been blown off. Right then, he made an instantaneous decision to run to a neighbour’s house to save his family.
“It was less than five minutes after we left, and I watched my house crumble to the ground destroying everything we owned”, he recounts. Bernardo says no one in the community expected that these cyclone Radio Águia and everyone was talking about would be that extreme. “In any case, we didn’t have any option but stay home and wait. What else could I do?”. However, Bernardo is grateful for his life and of his family because others in his location of Samora Machel were not lucky.
The director of Radio Águia, Gil Urbano, explains that he and his staff received information of Cyclone Idai approaching the area from a sugar factory which has cultivated good relations with the radio. Gil says they announced and warned communities every hour – at least 36 times of the coming winds and rains and that the impact would be massive, but he also confesses that he did not think it could be this bad. “Like everyone in the community, our radio station was destroyed including our musts and equipment. My home also suffered damage and we are all trying to rebuild and recover.
Radio Águia is popular in Dondo district and has been operational for five years. Bernardo, just like around 100,000 other listeners, is missing its programming on good agricultural practices, good nutrition, democracy and governance, health and hygiene promotion, children’s shows and sports, among others. However, Gil is not sitting and waiting to rebuild the radio. He and his team of 11 staff have come up with an innovative way of reaching at least 25,000 people with messages on prevention of cholera, malaria and HIV/AIDS infections around Samora Marchel location. “We have conducted a quick survey that has revealed people do not have access to radios and hence we mounted a speaker on a motorbike and started amplifying messages from a mobile phone via Bluetooth”.
Communities are listening to the messages and welcome the idea. “I have listened to the messages on how to avoid drinking dirty water and instead use a sterilizer to avoid diarrhoea. This is very useful information for me, however, we need the sterilizers”, said 24-year-old Amelia Baptista. The Radio Director of Production, Duarte Antonio Duarte, has been accompanying the motorcycle in the three neighbourhoods out of four and says people have been very happy about the messages and are asking for more.
Radio Águia is among at least six community radio stations in Sofala Province in Mozambique, the region worst affected by Cyclone Idai on 15 March 2019. Gil appeals to well-wishers to help rebuilding the station, donating equipment, computers and even roof for the building. “This is our lifeline and now more than ever we need the radio to help people with information to avoid disease outbreaks, recover, rebuild lives and prevent calamities in future”.Source: OCHA
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