Radio keeps Darfur refugees in Chad 'alive', informed and hopeful

Radio keeps Darfur refugees in Chad ‘alive’, informed and hopeful

Living in exile far away from home in the middle of nowhere and in a foreign country can be stressful and can at times take a heavy toll on one’s well-being.

This is the case of refugees of Darfur living in eastern Chad, where harsh and dire conditions in camps remember those who live in warm houses not to take life for granted.

But, if one has at least a radio barking news, music and weather reports, and debating current affairs survival can just be at his or her fingertips.

Non-profit organisation Internews has released a report outlining its media project in eastern Chad, where it built three humanitarian radio stationsto help those fleeing the violence in Darfur to receive the critical news and information they needed to survive.

The three stations are Radio Sila in GozBeida, Radio Absoun in Iriba and Radio Voix de Ouaddai in Abeche.

Internews lefteastern Chad last year, seven years after the first station went on air, as funding to international agencies significantly decreased.

The NGO also said it spent a full year preparing these stations for independence, including establishing rent-free premises, community governing boards and marketing strategies.

The report, compiled on the ground by journalist Celeste Hicks and photographer Meridith Kohut, is a complete documentation of the work that has been done in past sevenyears (since 2005) and a perspective for the future for these radio stations, as they prepare to fly solo.

Some of the highlights underlined in the report include the bravery of Internews to train andemploy about 60 local Chadian journalists and Darfur refugee correspondents, bring the voices of real people

in the refugee camps and establish such a powerful mediumin a country like Chadwhere nationalliteracy levelsare only 28%.

But what is touching is the startling testimonies of staff and audiences about the impact radio has made in their resources-stressed communities.

Radio Absoun director AoussaMohammed recounts in the report what it was like in 2004 when the refugees started arriving.

“It was really horrible. The image that stays with me was a woman who arrived from the border with a baby on her back. The baby was dead but the mother hadn’t even realised.

“It was really difficult to communicate with anyone at that time. It was

before mobile phones, there were a few satellite phones but they didn’t work everywhere. The only way to communicate was by word of mouth or by writing letters, but it was so slow.”

Establishing radio station in these areas not only change of the face of these communities, but also inspired young people to start dreaming of embracing a journalistic career.

“I would really love to be a journalist one day because I seewhat an important service they provide in the community,” 18-year-oldRahma Mohamed Ibed, was quoted as saying of Radio Sila staff, a station serving in the Djabal Darfur Refugee Camp.

“One day I lost my six year-old brother when we had goneout wood collecting – I called Madjihinguem and I told himto broadcast a message for people to look for him. Someonein the community found him and called up to tell us where he was,” he said.

Madjihinguem (Madji) Nguinabe (29) is aRadio Silajournalist based in GozBeida.

*Photo by the United Nations. Women in the Djabal Refugee Camp in eastern Chad listen in groups to Women’s Crossroads on Radio Sila, a program produced by Internews.

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