For those fleeing Mosul in Iraq, it had been more than two years since losing personal freedom and access to impartial information under the rule of armed militants.
UNHCR’s emergency humanitarian aid, including shelter and relief items have been life-saving, however an initiative started in Iraq's Hasansham camp has given families a communications lifeline.
Supported by BBC Media Action, Radio NAWA, a public-service radio operating Arabic and Kurdish services across Iraq has installed a new transmitter to reach the camp, providing access to information and encouraging the re-integration of communities who formerly lived under the control of militant groups, back into Iraqi society.
UNHCR and local aid partners have helped to distribute radio kits for families staying at the camp.
"Radio NAWA offers participatory phone-in programmes, through which these families can make their voices heard,” explains Handrin Osman, the manager of Radio NAWA.
"It is very important in terms of letting displaced Iraqis once again feel part of Iraqi society and engage with each other and with officials."
They walk around the camps holding the radios to their ears and sing along to songs they were not allowed to have access to under ISIS ruling
"Accurate, unbiased and non-partisan information is key to the ability of people, who have been forced to flee their homes and are often traumatised, to make informed decisions about their future,” says Abir Awad, Country Director for BBC Media Action.
Speaking to SBS Arabic24’s Heba Kassoua, the Arabic News Editor at Radio NAWA, Nouri Hamdan explains at their live talk-back programs, designed to allow refugees communicate their lost family members, have succeeded in reuniting hundreds of families.
Hamden says many couldn’t believe that one phone call was all they needed for their relatives to find them in another camp or another city in Iraq.
Mr Hamdan adds that hosting official personnel from both the Kurdish government the Iraqi government in their field studios inside the camps, have allowed the refugees to express their concerns debate their issues directly with the person in charge.
He adds that the most rewarding service of Radio NAWA has been allowing families of missing persons to call the guests from the governments and explain their situations, which has then seen their sons found or freed from prisons days later.
“People have been living in an information black-out for more than two years. This project can help them realise that their voices will not go unheard.”
The UN has also been very proud of its role in this initiative.
Bathoul Ahmad, spokesperson for the UNHCR in Iraq, tells SBS Arabic 24 that “UNHCR is very pleased to play a role in this initiative”.
He continues, “People have been living in an information black-out for more than two years. This project can help them realise that their voices will not go unheard.”
Ms Ahmed adds that the refugees are so grateful for the radios that they walk around the camps holding the radios to their ears and sing along to songs they were not allowed to have access to under ISIS ruling.
Listen to the full interviews and radio feature (in Arabic) with SBS Arabic24:
*UNESCO explains that Radio is one of the most universal mediums for communicating with people across the world.
- In 2016, more people listened to the radio than watched TV or smartphones
- 94% of adults listen to the radio weekly
More information via these UNESCO infographics, created to mark World Radio Day on 13th February, 2017:
Coincidently, on the World Radio Day, two SBS Arabic 24 listeners got introduced to each other. They recognized each other from the voices they are accustomed to listening to every morning on the radio!
Celebrated on the 13th February of each year, World Radio Day is a day to celebrate the radio, our love to it and the strong bond that connects it to it.