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Inside an IDP camp in Barsalogho, Burkina Faso, in January 2020. ©Olympia de Maismont / AFP Inside an IDP camp in Barsalogho, Burkina Faso, in January 2020.

Analyzing the impact of radio to counter COVID-related misinformation in Burkina Faso

How can radio broadcasters in Burkina Faso adapt to address and respond to the information needs of IDPs and combat (mis)information regarding Covid-19? This is the main question addressed by research launched in June by the University of Sheffield and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique of Burkina Faso, in partnership with Fondation Hirondelle, and supported by the charity Elrha.      

The study aims to determine how radio broadcasters in Burkina Faso can adapt to address and respond to the information needs of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and combat (mis)information regarding COVID-19.

To conduct this study, the researchers, Dr. Emma Heywood of the University of Sheffield and Dr. Lassané Yaméogo of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique in Burkina Faso, are working with displaced people in refugee camps and host communities to better understand their concerns, to find out what rumors and misinformation about COVID-19 they are exposed to, and the sources of this misinformation. The analytical work includes :

- Participants consultations by Whatsapp, which allows for the inclusion of more hard-to-reach people and avoids physical contact in this Covid context
- Analyses of the content produced by Studio Yafa to see how well it address the concerns of displaced people.
- A study of the impact of Studio Yafa's programs on the evolution of knowledge, perceptions and attitudes related to COVID and the fight against misinformation.

The researchers’ findings are then feed to Studio Yafa, Fondation Hirondelle’s radio programme in Burkina, broadcasted by a network of local partner radios accross the country. Studio Yafa’s journalists are then able to address the reported misinformation expressed by IDPS and their information needs, where appropriate, in their broadcasts.

« Providing accurate, regular and timely information on life-changing issues such as COVID-19 is essential to all and particularly to vulnerable groups such as IDPs, explains Dr. Heywood. Radio is often their main source of information. Working with a trusted Burkinabè radio source, and through a participatory collaboration, we hope to not only raise awareness amongst this population regarding COVID-related best practices but also raise the voice of these communities. »

The expected outcomes of that study are to :
•    improve awareness, understanding and confidence among affected populations regarding best practice in relation to the prevention of COVID-19 spread;
•    increase the capacity of IDPs and host communities to express their concerns and information needs;
•    create a closer collaboration between humanitarian and local media actors to address the needs of IDPs in a more accurate and targeted manner;
•    increase capacity to identify and rebut misinformation in a more targeted and quicker manner;
•    implement IDP-centred response and participation encouraging understanding and trust between affected population and humanitarian/public health actors;
•    encourage greater accountability of those actors with regard to the affected population;
•    strengthen inter-community understanding that will help prevent tensions caused by misinformation, stereotyping and rumours.

This research project is funded by Elrha’s Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Programme, which aims to improve health outcomes by strengthening the evidence base for public health interventions in humanitarian crises. R2HC is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Wellcome, and the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).