There is no gain saying the fact that the most dreaded monster threatening human existence across the globe today is COVID-19. Since the outbreak of the dreaded disease, thousands of human souls have been lost with no country spared of recording one or two causalities. On daily basis, the media is still awash with death stories despite the discoveries of at least 13 different vaccines- AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sinopharm (across four platforms) to combat the menace of the disease.
That countries with advanced technology, medical facilities and strong media such as Brazil, Turkey, United States, Britain and France still are still in the clutches of the pandemic means that a country like Nigeria needs to redouble effort at enlightening her populace on how to stay safe and curtail the spread of the disease. One veritable means to increase this mass awareness and enlightenment is community media.
A community media is, basically, non-profit, independent media owned and managed by the community which it serves. It is a medium of information created for a group of people living in a geographical location, and who share a common interest. The need to communicate information, ideas, and opinions with one another is what has led to the creation of the community media. Community media can take all the forms of other conventional media such as print (newspapers and magazines), radio, television and other web-based media. Of all these types of community media, radio has remained the most popular and particularly most widespread across the world due to its appeal to both literates and illiterate. Aside from radio gadget being cheap to acquire by the masses, it also has wide coverage and easy penetration to the hinterland.
However, the community media, be it radio, TV or newspaper, provides social services through their focus on local issues. It helps to promote the norms and values of the community. Through community media, crimes at grassroots level can be reduced or prevented while civic education, cross-gender dialogue, cultural literacy, among others, can be harnessed for developmental purposes. It’s in the light of this that there is need for Nigeria to seriously focus attention on the use of the community media to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic that’s still roaring to cause more harm in our nation.
As at June 4, 2021, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) statistics on put confirmed cases of COVID-19 at 166,682, active cases at 2,044; discharged cases at 162,521 and death cases at 2,117. These statistics from the NCDC are evidence of the fact that the country still has a long battle to do with the monstrous disease, even though the federal government has attacked it with all necessary medical treatment. In this regard, the massive use of community media will greatly complement the federal government effort when more people, especially in the rural areas are well informed and orientated on how to ‘stay safe’ and from contracting the disease.
With the use of community media through repeated and detailed content about the virus, geographical statistics, and explanations from medical experts many more people will know how to keep themselves safe from the dreaded disease. Without medications or vaccination people will become aware that measures such as regular use of face masks, hand washing and maintenance of social distancing can prevent them from contacting or spread of the disease.
In a nutshell, it’s high time all and sundry began to see the use of community media whether in form of radio, TV or magazine as a veritable tool for designing, informing and implementing preventive measures and promoting health awareness in the fight against COVID-19 especially in this era of social media where misinformation has become the order of the day.
Aminat Olajumoke Alamu,
Mass Communication Department,
University of Maiduguri.