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Local Kachin radio station helps spread drug use prevention message during COVID-19

Kachin State (Myanmar), 13 November 2020
- UNODC has partnered with a radio station in Kachin state to reach families in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and surrounding communities, despite the challenges from COVID-19. Over the past months, Radio Veritas Asia Kachin Service (RVA-KS) has been broadcasting educational messages on drug use prevention to its listenership of around 100,000 families across the State and distributing them to 2,500 families living in IDP camps from Myitkyina, Waimaw, and Mogaung. The collaboration is part of UNODC’s efforts, with support of the Government of Japan, to better understand and offer responses to the worrying drug situation and high levels of drug dependence in Kachin.

Developed in line with UNODC’s ‘Listen First’ initiative, the broadcasted messages target parents to increase their awareness on the importance of parenting skills, and increasing knowledge on parents’ role in the prevention of substance use in their children. “Family is the initial environmental and social factor affecting child development, so parents’ behaviours and parenting skills have a major impact on the behaviour and abilities of their children,” said Benedikt Hofmann, UNODC Country Manager for Myanmar. “It is crucial for parents to understand the importance of a positive environment for their children and avoiding behaviours that can damage a child’s mental well-being, which could lead to substance use in their adolescence.”

RVA-KS is a non-commercial Catholic shortwave station broadcasting with substantial State-wide coverage and audiences in many IDP camps. Since September 2020, the station has broadcasted the messages every morning at 6:30 AM, reaching over 100,000 families living in both government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas of Kachin State, in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. The messages have also been relayed using handheld loudspeakers among 2500 families living in 47 IDP camps from Myitkyina, Waimaw and Mogaung townships in Kachin State. Based on positive community feedback, UNODC is planning to further expand its reach by collaborating with other local radio channels and relevant faith-based and social organizations.

The messages were developed following an assessment on innovative ways of behavior change communication, conducted in response to increasing challenges to traditional in-person education programming due to COVID-19. The assessment suggested that radio messages distributed through local stations and handheld loudspeakers would be effective in reaching target families in IDP camps and surrounding areas.

“Substance use prevention reduces personal, family and community harm and fosters fundamental social and economic welfare,” said Dr. Win Mar, UNODC National Programme Specialist on Drugs and Health. “Despite challenges in the field during the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative solution such as the radio messages and partnerships with civil society ensure families in the IDP camps and surrounding communities continue to benefit from these activities.”

Drug use prevention in Kachin is part of a wider effort to better understand and offer responses to the concerning drug situation in the State, implemented as part of the UNODC Country Programme for Myanmar. Most recently, UNODC provided guidance on how to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 by providing 10,000 leaflets to families in IDP camps in Kachin State. Over the coming months, UNODC will strengthen capacities of health personnel to support community-based drug treatment services, and enhance understanding of the drug situation in Kachin.