Beni study report & summary on language and communication on Ebola

7 January, 2020

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I am pleased to share the report of our recent assessment in Beni, DRC on language and communication challenges in the Ebola response. You can find the full report and the findings brief, in English and French, here.

To summarize, these are the main conclusions for any organization attempting to improve risk communication and community engagement in the response:

- Communities want information in the languages they speak and understand. Localized Swahili, which is different from Congolese Swahili, is the preferred language in Beni. Nande and Lingala are important languages to reach people in Beni who are not fluent in Swahili or French.

- Communities want content that meets their changing needs. New information and details about the disease, its prevention and treatment, often seem to contradict what has been said before. People need up-to-date messages and answers, not just instructions, to overcome fear and disbelief.

- Communities want information delivered in an appropriate and accessible way. Local people consider most of the terms used in the Ebola response harsh, and struggle to access information materials. So health communicators replace key terms with euphemisms, which are better accepted but vary from person to person. They need more support to give clear and consistent explanations and relay information in the formats people prefer.

We all hope the end of the current outbreak is in sight. But better communication - language, content and format - will be critical to bringing that about. And these practical takeaways should be part of preparing for the next major health emergency.

Please do share the findings widely with other colleagues who might be interested.

And let me know if you have any questions about our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Many thanks and best



Mia Marzotto

Senior Advocacy Officer

Skype: miacrocetti

WhatsApp: +39 333 743 9807

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HIFA profile: Mia Marzotto is Advocacy Officer at Translators without Borders. She is based in New York City, USA. She is a member of the HIFA working group on Multilingualism.