The phone doesn’t stop ringing in Mikado FM’s main studio in Mali’s capital Bamako, during the show Midikado, one of the most popular radio broadcasts in the country.
"Tell me the basic protective measures you should take to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus," asks Ben Junior Kambiré, the host of this quiz show intended to test the knowledge of listeners on COVID-19, while at the same time entertaining them.
"Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose," replies Salomé Dembélé, who is calling in 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, a cough, and difficulty breathing. But before going to the doctor, you must first telephone them.”
"Good answer!’ The host says in his usual cheerful voice.
Ms. Dembélé, an elementary school teacher, will later receive a gift for her successful participation, like other Midikado winners. Over the years, the radio station’s interactive programming has amplified people’s voices, including about their daily concerns.
Mikado FM was launched in 2015 by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali to help consolidate peace and promote harmony and coexistence following a protracted war. The station communicates with listeners in French as well as in the country’s main languages.
Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, host Ben Junior Kambiré has never felt more useful to his community.
"Between two questions put to listeners on COVID-19, I play songs that also help raise awareness about the pandemic, and other public service messages," he explains.
His colleagues, responsible for information programmes in local languages, share the same feeling. After the Midikado show, they will all come on the air to present the latest news on COVID-19 in Bambara, Songhay, Tamasheq, Fulani and Arabic.
Other Mikado FM programmes are also creating public awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Objectif Santé is a weekly show focused on health and well-being. The show’s guests include the World Health Organization’s representative in Mali Dr. Jean-Pierre Baptiste and officials from the government health agencies who provide the latest news on the pandemic, as well as a psychologist focused on the mental health impacts of the crisis.
The show also caters to children who are confined to their homes due to school closures.
"We produce spots during which we answer children's questions on COVID-19," says Mimi Konaté, another popular radio presenter. “Through a show called The Coronavirus explained to Children, we explain the pandemic in a simple language that is accessible to them."
The deputy director of the National Health Department, Abdoulaye Guindo, is a regular on the show. He says: "Mikado FM provides remarkable public service work through the quality of its programmes and its broad reach in our country where radio is an important media. Mikado FM does not only provide quality information; it is also very useful in dispelling rumours that are often dangerous in today's environment."
Dispelling rumours and fake news
Informing, but above all countering rumours and dispelling fake news: this is the objective of the programme Le vrai du faux (True from False) launched three months ago. Its host, Aboubacar Dicko’s hands are full dispelling the several rumours and misinformation on COVID-19 circulating on social media networks. These fake stories on the pandemic must be debunked quickly to set the record straight.
"You have to stay proactive," Mr. Dicko explains while preparing for his next show. “On social media, we are on the alert because rumours and misinformation are spreading faster than the pandemic." The radio station has also adopted a multimedia approach to its programmes to reach the greatest number of people during the pandemic. One recent example is the campaign Artists Against the Coronavirus with Mikado FM.
Recently, renowned Malian artists, including Amadou and Mariam, Oumou Sangaré, Cheick Tidiane Seck, and Ami Koita, recorded video messages in French and local languages to raise awareness about the pandemic. The video messages are disseminated on social media, and broadcast as radio spots on Mikado FM as well as on dozens of partner radio stations in different regions across the country.
Mikado FM is working around the clock to ensure that communities feel they have a trusted partner as they take the appropriate individual and collective measures to contain the virus.