Responders should use the local form of Swahili to communicate with communities at risk of Ebola.
DANBURY, Conn., USA – 19 March, 2019
Translators without Borders (TWB) found that people in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) do not fully understand Ebola-prevention messages in French and standard Swahili. Responders should use the local form of Swahili in their Ebola-related communications in Goma to ensure people have the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.
TWB conducted the rapid language needs assessment in February 2019 in Goma, North Kivu Province. The assessment measured language, format, and communication needs among 216 individuals selected from varied locations in the city. TWB also discussed communication challenges in the Ebola response with humanitarian actors, government officials, civil society leaders, and academics.
Highlights and recommendations include:
- Risk communication materials for the Ebola response are not fully understood in Goma, particularly by women and older people.
- Information on Ebola is best understood in local Swahili in Goma, rather than in standard Swahili or French.
- Seemingly basic words like “bloody” in French or “vaccine” in Swahili were not well understood.
- Responding agencies should develop information materials in plain language and prioritize audio communication.
TWB plans to conduct similar assessments in other at-risk and affected areas in DRC. We will use the findings to help responders break the Ebola transmission chain by communicating more effectively with people in areas at risk of Ebola.
Because language use varies between locations, TWB urges responders to test comprehension and communication preferences in other areas affected by or at risk of Ebola.
This assessment was supported by Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) – a grant-making facility supporting organizations and individuals to identify, nurture and share innovative and scalable solutions to the most pressing challenges facing effective humanitarian assistance. The HIF ‘Accelerating the Journey to Scale’ initiative is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
About Translators without Borders
Translators without Borders (TWB) envisions a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. The US-based non-profit provides people access to vital knowledge in their language by connecting non-profit organizations with a community of language professionals, building local language solutions and raising awareness of the power of language. Originally founded in 1993 in France (as Traducteurs sans Frontières), TWB translates millions of words of lifesaving and life-changing information a year.
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