"Electric fan was no better than a handheld fan!"

by Hazeen Latif

Picture this: a village with around 120 households; men, women, children and elderly all living together in conditions very few would dare to live. As the night falls the world beyond the village illuminates with lights glowing from house windows and on the streets. Cool air wafts from air conditioners and fans are blowing. But this village in KPK looks like a campsite with candle lights getting dimmer and dimmer as night get deeper.

 “We can’t sleep at night as the children cry of mosquito bites and heat,” says a local resident. Because of low electricity voltage and power cuts, electric fan speed is no better than a handheld fan. The problem was caused by a 25 kVA transformer with weak and rusted links, which connected the village to the national electricity supply grid. The transformer has been repaired over two dozen times and cannot be repaired anymore.

But thanks to our partner’s community radio program “Naway Saher”, which highlighted this issue before summer reached peak temperatures, a brand new 50kVA transformer has been installed replacing the older one. The voltage is very stable and community houses are much happier places to be. Residents say “this good fan speed is much better than hand fan!”

New transformer in Majukay village, May 2019. HCR Pakistan

New transformer in Majukay village, May 2019. HCR Pakistan

Stations collaborate to end violent extremism

By Jon Hargreaves

HCR partner station Amani FM in eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, has joined forces with another community station to promote peace in this conflict-affected region.  The project “Amani Mashinani,” which in Swahili means peace at the grassroots, involves young people in the design and creation of feature stories and talk-shows that promote peace, using the airwaves of Amani FM in Garsen and TBS (Tana Broadcasting Service), in Hola.   Besides creative radio content, many on-the-ground activities involving youth are being planned around the district to encourage awareness of how conflict happens and how it can be resolved.

The initiative follows concerns that terrorist groups such as Al-Shabab have been trying to recruit vulnerable, unemployed young people in the eastern areas of the country, near the border with Somalia.

HCR Associate Kelvin Nyangweso, one of the architects of the project, says the radio stations are operated by young volunteers who come from different communities in Tana River and who have a good understanding of the dynamics and needs of their own people. 

“The radio stations will provide the youth with a platform to engage in planning and producing media content through a collective, participatory approach,” says Kelvin. 

Besides training the young citizen journalists in the techniques of “peace journalism” and communication that counters violence,  youth leaders in the county will also undergo training to help them prevent and respond to issues that threaten to destabilise their communities. 

Amani FM was established by HCR in July 2017 ahead of Kenya’s controversial elections, in an effort to promote peace and complement the work of Una Hakika which was set up to combat rumours, misinformation and fake news, the key drivers of conflict in Tana River County.

Volunteer journalists at Amani FM receiving training in peacebuilding and conflict transformation

Volunteer journalists at Amani FM receiving training in peacebuilding and conflict transformation

Spraying for peace ...

By Johnny Fisher and Hazeen Latif

These community volunteers in Majukay are amazing! Despite the intense summer heat and the fasting period, they got out and sprayed mosquito hotspots in their community to prevent Dengue fever infections.

Has it made a difference? This year we heard people saying, more people are gathering together again in the places where community happens. In previous years there were too many mosquitoes and people avoided their normal meeting places in mosquito season. People meeting together is a big win for peacebuilding and the mosquito numbers are down - that’s a big win in the battle against disease.

Local government funded the spraying activities after hearing HCR Pakistan’s partner Naway Saher (NSCSG) talk about community concerns on local radio.

Radio station supports thousands fleeing attack

By Jon Hargreaves

Umoja FM, HCR’s partner station in Nobili, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is supporting communities fleeing attacks by Islamist rebels. “Our team are doing all we can to provide essential information to displaced people as well as support to the wider population,” said Station Manager Baraka Bacweki.

According to the UN, urgent action is needed to help tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes, following a spate of armed attacks in the eastern DRC by rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, which are linked to so-called ‘Islamic State’. Local MP, Hon Albert Baliesima described the situation as deplorable for communities who have already endured so much suffering and hardship. He said makeshift schools had been set up in Nobili, and surrounding areas near the Ugandan border to try and provide children with some education and stability.

Makeshift classrooms have been set up to provide education and some stability for displaced children

Makeshift classrooms have been set up to provide education and some stability for displaced children

This latest humanitarian crisis was triggered by attacks which began on March 30 and have continued for a month in Beni territory, North Kivu. According to local health authorities, over 60,000 people were displaced in April alone.

Tamba Emmanuel Danmbi-saa, Oxfam's Humanitarian Program Manager in the DRC, said: “This is a deeply worrying situation. These people fear going back to their homes and are being forced to live in cramped, unsanitary conditions, in an area where Ebola remains a significant threat. These people urgently need food and adequate sanitation facilities as well as clean water and health services.”

Several thousand people are reported to be sheltering in a primary school just 1 km from the border crossing to Uganda. The only water available to drink is from the river and there are only a few toilets at the school, meaning the threat of disease spreading is high. As no food is being provided, for many people the only way to get food is to go back to their villages where they don’t feel safe.

Hon Albert Baliesima, MP for Beni Territory being interviewed by Baraka Bacweki from Umoja FM in Nobili

Hon Albert Baliesima, MP for Beni Territory being interviewed by Baraka Bacweki from Umoja FM in Nobili

“The radio station is providing vital information at this challenging time,” says Baraka. “People are very confused and need information to help them make decisions.”

Humanitarian organisations say that that ongoing violence in the area makes reaching people with aid from within DRC extremely difficult and Ugandan authorities are preparing to receive an influx of new refugees. 

HCR supports communities facing crisis in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. For more information contact hcruk@h-c-r.org

“We didn’t realize that our voice was so effective and strong!”

By Hazeen Latif

Change is happening and its infectious! The development changes we have seen in the last few months in Majukay, a community in Charsadda, Pakistan, were almost unimaginable 4 years ago when the community members set ambitious goals for being a healthy thriving society. It feels like a corner has been turned, and the change is gaining momentum.

  • The main street leading into the village is being upgraded with a concrete surface. Until a few months ago it was a rough, soil track scarred with ditches and puddles.

Concreting the road surface. Majukay, April 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Concreting the road surface. Majukay, April 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

  • A new transformer is soon to be installed. This summer people can enjoy a cool breeze from their fans. Previously the low capacity in the electricity supply meant people suffered in the heat with fans running at tortoise speed.

  • The local administration has agreed to spray the community to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and spreading Dengue fever. Summer heat is on its way and with it the risk of Dengue increases.

Structural development like this doesn’t happen easily because of bureaucratic inertia. But something new has happened in the last year few months. Local authorities have started to release funds for development as they pay new attention to the community needs, and to the appetite for change.  Other are taking notice too. Nearby villages want to know how to bring similar changes to their own communities.

“It is all due to our radio program and WhatsApp group”

Zahid Ullah Zahid, who heads the Naway Saher Community Services Group.

Councillor in NS Studio, April 2019. HCR Pakistan

Councillor in NS Studio, April 2019. HCR Pakistan

Naway Saher formed a small radio production team, trained by HCR Pakistan, and, since November 2018, they have been broadcasting a community radio programme in Pushto language on a local FM station. The village voice is getting louder and stronger through radio and it reached the ears of the district councillor.  He decided to support the new structural developments and even came to be interviewed in the radio studio.

“We didn’t realize that our voice was so effective and strong”

One of the newly trained production team members.

So far the Majukay story has been one of gradual change. People have been coming together to discuss issues and establish unity. Less and less people have the mindset that nothing will happen and only the government should do everything. Naway Saher (New Dawn) Community Services Group, supported by HCR Pakistan, has held community workshops, village committees, and youth sports events. Village elders have given their support. Families have started boiling water for drinking to avoid illness from contaminated water sources. In 2016 HCR Pakistan supported the community to dig a well and the well has been giving clean water since. People come from far away to get the only clean drinking water and are claiming that it is a miracle as the water never stops giving odorless good water.

The Majukay story is spreading – upwards, outwards and inwards.

“More people are joining with us” says Zahid Ullah. Not only are surrounding villages wanting to see similar changes, but more people from within the community want to get involved.

Help keep this viral effect going! HCR Pakistan is seeking funding to help Naway Saher become even more inclusive, with more media content created for and by women and girls. We are also seeking funding to help two more communities in nearby districts to develop community-centred media projects. Please contact us if you want to know more, or you can Donate via this web site.