Friday 29 August 2014, 14:23
A 30-minute weekly radio programme and BBC World Service updates are tackling dangerous rumours about Ebola and providing life-saving information in Sierra Leone.
Tuesday 2 September 2014, 16:02
A month ago I shut the door on the house that has been my home in Tripoli and, with one suitcase, climbed into a convoy with a dozen or so other "internationals" being evacuated from Libya.
I'd been living in this beautiful but chaotic city for a year working with Libya's State TV station, Al Wataniya and the national news agency, LANA. Before the revolution these institutions were at the heart of Muammar Gaddafi's extensive propaganda machine. Now, under new leadership, both were finding their voices.
Like the rest of Libyan society, Al Wataniya has acutely felt the divisions and pressures of the unfolding power struggle. The Director General has been kidnapped twice. A large number of staff simply do not come to work.
Other staff, meanwhile work long hours to bring new public service values to the station's output through two programmes supported by BBC Media Action: (The Door is Open), a Libyan version of BBC's The One Show, and a debate show called Hiwar Mushtarak (Joint Conversation) which follows a similar format to the BBC's Question Time and gives members of the public the chance to question their leaders.
As I headed along the road to the border, I...
Friday 29 August 2014, 14:23
A couple of weeks ago in the middle of the night, phones started ringing across Sierra Leone. Despite the late hour, people were calling to pass on the latest rumour about Ebola – that bathing in salty hot water could protect you. By the next day, the rumour had swept across the whole country.
Such potentially dangerous misinformation is what our team in Freetown is tackling with a new radio programme. Called Kick Ebola Nar Salone (Kick Ebola out of Sierra Leone), the 30-minute show is produced weekly and broadcast three times a week on our 35 partner stations across the country.
As well as updating people with official, fact-checked statistics about the outbreak, we tackle rumours and misinformation head on.
For example, on our second episode, we took another rumour – that the drink “bitter Kola” could cure Ebola – and asked an official from the Ministry of Health, Lansana Conteh, about it.
He responded: “[Even] under normal circumstances, those rums aren’t good for you, let alone drinking it as a prevention or cure. Bitter Kola has nothing to do with Ebola! It can’t cure or prevent it - and people should stop peddling that information to mislead the public...
Wednesday 27 August 2014, 16:39
The assignments I take on for BBC Media Action sometimes take my breath away. Take my most recent project, for example: travel to the Horn of Africa and facilitate the creation of a 24-episode radio drama, I was told.
Make sure it fosters a sense of Somali identity and inspires young people to engage in their communities and the social issues that affect them. It goes without saying it has to be relevant to all three regions of Somalia (Southern, Puntland and Somaliland). It must be entertaining, well written, have high production values and relevant to its target youth audience. Oh, and you’ve got ten days.
Sometimes working here can feel a bit like the start of a Mission Impossible film.
To be fair, we didn’t have to create all 24 episodes. But writing and producing four of them still felt like a tall order.
Return to Somalia
It’s been eight years since I was last in Hargeisa and my memories of it are a bit vague. On arrival I’m shocked to see how the hot dusty little town, famous for its “plastic bag trees” has grown into a metropolis, albeit still pretty hot and dusty. Hotels are bursting at the seams not just because the town is hosting the 7th International...
Thursday 14 August 2014, 10:07
Every year in far west Nepal, the great river Mahkali brings tragedy to the lives of those living near it. Last month, as the annual monsoon rains beat down, it was no different: severe flooding and landslides claimed at least seven lives, displaced hundreds of families and destroyed vast areas of farmland. Yet more lives would have been lost, however, had it not been for one courageous radio station manager.
Dhirendra Sinal runs Shuklaphanta FM in the town of Kanchanpur. About a year ago, he and his production team attended training run by our BBC Media Action team in Nepal about how to produce...
Thursday 7 August 2014, 15:32Children from Gumbo Primary School in Juba, South Sudan
Earlier this year I blogged about the school children in Jonglei state who were forced mid-exam to flee to the bush in fear of their lives.
That was just the start of the widespread fighting that has since led to a severe humanitarian crisis in this country. States that were spared violence are now home to thousands of people displaced by the conflict, many living in camps. They are short of food, health facilities and clean drinking water. Added to this, parents are particularly worried about their children’s education.
As part of our...
Thursday 31 July 2014, 11:17
I knew this was going to be a story worth the 300km trip from my home town of Hargeisa to Burao in Somaliland. It was early morning and the sun was just about to set out from the east when I visited the brightly painted but crumbling Burao General Hospital in Somaliland. There in the courtyard I found Asha Farah Hersi, a remarkable 70-year-old woman who works to vaccinate people against incurable diseases like polio.
A tall woman stooped by age, Asha couldn't wait to start work even at this early hour. When I met her, she had a small, portable fridge containing vaccines in her left hand and her...
Tuesday 29 July 2014, 13:52
Stories about violence against women in Nepal are, sadly, not rare. Since my schooldays, I’ve heard of women beaten by in-laws or taking their own lives because they could no longer stand the abuse.
But I also vividly recall other stories I heard as a girl. That of a young woman for example, who was asked for a motorbike as a dowry by her prospective husband and his family. Her response? She told him he should marry the motorbike instead and put the bridal garland of flowers on the bike and not her.
This story has always inspired me to stand up for my rights and help other vulnerable people...
Tuesday 22 July 2014, 15:52
For the past four years, the BBC Media Action team here in Sierra Leone has been building the skills of radio stations' producers and journalists across the country. We've trained community journalists on how to gather news, for example, helped them to develop new programmes and coached station managers on how to find new sources of revenue.
But never have we run a training workshop with such high stakes as the one we did this month. On 2 July in Freetown, we gathered together staff from 30 radio stations from across the country to learn how best to tackle the current outbreak of the Ebola virus...
Friday 18 July 2014, 11:20
"Well, I am made of latex, and I come in lots of different brands, shapes and sizes. I am anything from small to extra-large, strawberry and banana flavoured," says Mr Condom, one of the stars of a brand new radio show in Zambia. "Sex is still sweet with me and you save yourself stress about STIs, HIV and unwanted pregnancies."
Mr Condom appears on Tikambe Natulande, a show broadcast on Radio Mkushi which aims to get young people talking about sex, STIs and how to prevent HIV/AIDS – a taboo subject in Zambia. (Tikambe and Natulande mean "Let's Talk" in Nyanja and Bemba languages respectively)...
Thursday 26 June 2014, 10:38
Iraqi men and children sit outside their tent in a camp for people fleeing fighting around the city of Mosul. As news came in earlier this month that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) had taken Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, I turned on my TV and satellite box in London to see how Iraqi TV channels were covering the crisis. To my surprise, what I saw transported me back to my life in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's three wars. Once again, I saw a presenter on one of the pro-government channels wearing military uniform. Once again, I heard the popular chanting and poetry that...