World Radio Day

Radio Ergo – a critical information provider in Somalia

Radio Ergo editor Leyla Mohamed explains the role and impact of the broadcaster, which is dedicated to amplifying the voices of ordinary Somalis.

Radio Ergo produces daily broadcasts for the Somali-speaking community in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, focusing on news and information related to humanitarian and social issues. Ergo airs on shortwave radio frequency, covering all of Somalia, as well as through local radio partners who rebroadcast the programming locally.

Leyla Mohamed: Radio Ergo’s daily broadcasts share quality news on the day-to-day lives of Somali people, including those in remote areas. We reach areas inhabited by mainly pastoralists and farmers, sharing information and awareness on key issues including health. We know many areas don’t even have health centres, so our broadcasts take on a wide scope as we are disseminating critical information that people otherwise lack.

I think Radio Ergo has taken up a leading role in informing people, especially when you look at the Somali speaking media. Most media outlets, as we are aware, channel their focus towards politics and other topics that don’t directly impact the lives of people. Radio Ergo is different, every day we produce one hour of broadcasting that impacts people’s lives in a real way, on all the issues that matter in their daily lives and livelihoods.

Interviewer: How can we measure Radio Ergo’s impact?

Leyla Mohamed: We know that our broadcasts benefit people partly because they call us on our toll free short-code number, available nationwide, to leave their feedback. Some people also share their comments on the radio reports, interviews or weekly programmes. This shows us that there are millions of people who hear our broadcasts everyday, according to our estimates. People also interact with our programmes by asking questions to the experts that we host on various shows on health, livestock, farming and so on.

Interviewer: What is new on Radio Ergo for 2024?

Leyla Mohamed: We have recently introduced two new programmes. The first is a pioneering mental health programme, in which we consult with mental health experts in Somalia and outside to inform listeners on mental health issues and answer their questions. This programme is having good results, with people calling on our short-code number just like they do with other programmes. We air interactive sessions with experts responding to listeners’ questions and personal stories relating to mental health. The programme, called Maankaab in Somali, was first launched last October on World Mental Health Day.

When we started this programme, we thought people might not interact, given the sensitivity of the issues and people’s lack of awareness. We started slowly introducing the background to various topics including feelings and emotions, and the symptoms that may be displayed by people with mental disorders in the Somali context. We also covered the social stigma associated with mental health in Somalia. Our audiences are getting used to the broadcasts that we very much feel can be beneficial for them.

Second, we introduced disability programme reporting on the challenges faced by people living with disabilities at home, at work, in society, and how they overcome them. We also talk about opportunities they encounter so that we can share lessons with others living with disabilities.

Interviewer: How do you decide what programmes to include, in general?

Leyla Mohamed: We look at the need for programmes first by seeing what other media outlets are providing and where there may be gaps. The second thing that informs the introduction of new programmes is the feedback we get from people through our short-code number. Also, we conducted some local research with listeners in Galmudug, Jubaland and Mogadishu, where we found that most people were interested in such topics as mental health.

Interviewer: What were Radio Ergo’s main achievements in 2023?

Leyla Mohamed: We make an effort to respond to what people need. So for instance, last year we focused on the impact of the devastating El Nino rains and flooding and subsequent disease outbreaks. We aired numerous early warning alerts giving people the information they needed to know what to expect and to be able to decide what to do.

Other organisation and the government were of course involved in providing data and information, but we as Radio Ergo also mobilised our reporters across the regions to investigate the impact of the disaster on local communities. We have more than 30 local correspondents who report from their local areas, sharing unique interviews and dispatches from the ground.

We produced numerous reports on the situation in IDP camps including disease outbreaks, mosquito infestations and so on. We worked closely with health and other experts and agencies to ensure that we could convey correct information to listeners. I don’t think there is any other media outlet in Somalia that has taken up such a role!

Among our listeners, Rado Ergo is viewed as an envoy sharing their needs and challenges with responders. We have reported uniquely on the impact of HIV on families affected, and the terrible stigma against albinos living in Mogadishu and other places. We also connect the people who share their stories with those who can help them. Radio Ergo’s highlighting of such stories has led to people with albinism getting jobs.

We also focus on women, ensuring that women are at the centre of our reporting, as they are vulnerable and face many challenges. Radio Ergo is famous for raising stories of women’s success in business and the success of single mothers supporting children’s education and health. We don’t shy away from the issues of rape and FGM even though these are hard stories to tell.

This reporting has made Radio Ergo into the defender of the people and the voice of the people, as listeners have told us in interviews. Government agencies and other concerned organisations can take up their roles, for us we have taken up our role as media. We want people to learn from the challenges and experiences faced by others.

This article was first published on Radio Ergo’s website on the 13 February 2024.