Haruna Amooti is a radio presenter at Life FM, a community radio station that broadcasts mainly in the local languages of Runyoro and Rutooro.
Once every week, for an hour, from 7.15 to 8.15 pm, Amooti at the Life FM studios in Fort Portal, presents a programme to listeners in seven districts of Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo, Kasese, Ntoroko, Kamwenge, and Kabarole, the estimated reach of the radio.
The young man speaks fluent Rutooro and Lunyoro although his programme is broadcast in Rutooro.
For the content that is broadcast on his programme, Amooti attends a village health club meeting every month. In there, he records live voices of the proceedings of the meeting. Sometimes, Amooti visits the various projects that the clubs have put up.
Some clubs have formed circles where each member makes a monthly contribution and on a rotational basis one member borrows the money. Others have established development projects like piggery and poultry or started drama groups that perform songs and skits with health promotional messages.
“I listen to Amooti’s programme every Wednesday. I never miss it. It teaches us about diseases and how to improve our incomes,” said Teopista Namalembeko, a member of the Kitalesa health club that has a piggery project with twelve pigs. It was after hearing Amooti’s programme that she joined her village health club.
Amooti’s most memorable meetings wherein clubs in which members have united to form a circle and had financial independence or projects like Teopista’s Kitalesa Club.
“Some members have been able to construct permanent houses and move out of grass thatched ones. While others have used this money from circles to buy land or add to their businesses, which has improved their families’ finances and health,” said Amooti.
He said he was also impressed with the way some clubs use enforcement techniques to improve health. For instance, a village club head and the local community leaders after a meeting, chased away the tenants from rental houses until the landlord constructed a befitting toilet. !
In some instances, Amooti has hosted some of the village health club facilitators to his programme. He asks them what they have done as individuals, or collectively as a club, how effective they have been, what more health interventions they need from government, Malaria Consortium Uganda, the implementing agent and from the community.
“When the community leaders and members hear their own speaking on the radio they get very excited. I think with good mobilization and partnership with district leaders this village health club concept can be very successful and be well replicated,” said Dr. Julius Bahinda, the Kyegegwa District Health Officer.
Lawrence Businge, the Kyegegwa District health educator has been hosted on the show a dozen times. He as well thinks this concept can be rolled out in every district in Uganda because it is ‘workable’.
In his appearances, he has come with designed health messages, which highlight the achievements of some of the clubs and further educates the communities about the three target diseases; malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Sometimes they also discuss and promote government health programmes.
“The radio talk shows amplify our messages because not all members can attend the club meetings,” said Businge. He says the clubs have created a positive impact, mostly they have united communities which can now work togather to take care and control communicable diseases.
Sometimes, during the radio programme, they select a certain disease like malaria and discuss it, how to control it, what are the danger signs that come with it and at the end of every programme, 15 minutes are reserved for in-callers.
“For the fifteen minutes, callers from the districts that do not have village health clubs always request that they want to start them too,” said Amooti. Directly they call and ask him ‘Can you ask that Malaria Consortium group start village health clubs here because we also face the same health problems?’
Other callers request that Amooti alerts Malaria Consortium to include more than the three diseases of malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea that are currently being handled by the village health clubs. The matter may be considered.
But for now, to further motivate the village health club members, Life FM in partnership with Malaria Consortium Uganda is going to hold competitions later this month to get the club that has practiced the village health clubs concept best and the best performing village health facilitator.
“That will be the model that we hope shall be replicated all over the country,” said Amooti thoughtfully. But for all he knows now, his radio programme has improved listenership and people are always eager to stay tuned because the information broadcast touches their everyday health issues and economic life.