OOR (On Our Radar)
Fighting the Fever and Beyond the Bite
Malaria is not just a health issue for people in Sierra Leone – it also has social and economic impacts and affects people’s day-to-day lives in many hidden and unexpected ways. This project set out to train a group of citizen reporters in Sierra Leone to produce and share powerful, human stories about how malaria affects their, and other people’s, lives.
On Our Radar developed an innovative platform, Radius, for reporters to send in stories from remote parts of the country by SMS. Working alongside other partners within the Fighting Malaria, Improving Health Partnership, the project enabled partner organisations to enhance their use of community voices and draw out key content for storytelling, which could then be used for strategic communications and advocacy work. The project also trained reporters in the use of video recording equipment to shoot and edit films, which were then also used to build awareness of the challenges tackling malaria and responding to COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.
As the project advanced, On Our Radar saw the opportunity to translate the community reporters’ stories into clear demands, representing communities' voices, which could be elevated through a broader coalition of partners and events, for examples community film festivals and meetings with decision makers. The reporters worked together to develop a web documentary, which featured a series of compelling films, as well as a ‘People’s Healthcare Manifesto’ to set out community demands in an accessible and appealing way. The community reporter network was able to act as an accountability mechanism for local leaders, highlighting gaps in service provisions and engaging communities in demands to improve health care.
An external evaluation found evidence that community reporters’ stories and their activities have led to increased awareness and behaviour change in communities around the prevention and treatment of malaria. The five main changes identified are: (i) an increase of visits to health centres; (ii) an improved understanding of how malaria can be contracted; (iii) the importance of keeping communities clean to minimize mosquito reproduction; (iv) an improved use of bed nets; and (v) increased Covid awareness and prevention.