A group of young people in Rwanda have been writing and producing a series of radio dramas to teach listeners about the vital role hand-washing and sanitation play in preventing the spread of diseases such as Covid-19.

The radio plays were produced in partnership with the charity WaterAid, over an 18-month period.

And photographer Elena Heatherwick has created a series to show the radio producers at work.

Broadcast on Radio Ishingiro, the plays reach four million listeners, a third of the population of Rwanda.
Rwanda imposed Africa’s first lockdown following the spread of coronavirus, on 22 March.

Martha Uwimana, a school water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) officer for WaterAid in Rwanda, says: “The dramas are playing a crucial role in helping prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“People are being encouraged to remain at home for 14 days, so radio is a powerful tool.”

With fragile health systems and a lack of access to clean water, African countries may be severely affected by the virus.

And with one in four Rwandans unable to read and many not owning a television, radio is the most popular medium for news and information.

The young people produce everything in the dramas, including the writing, acting, and even sound effects such as creaking doors and animal noises.

Solonge says: “I taught my mother how to be hygienic and showed her that if you don’t wash your hands, you are going to catch diseases.

“The dramas really are changing lives and that makes me feel important and really happy.”

Her mother, Emelthe Mukashyakh, says: “All my neighbours have been listening to her and talking about her and that makes me feel really proud.

“I never used to cover the latrine or wash my hands after going to the toilet.

“I now understand good hygiene and sanitation is the source of good health.

“It is so important.”

All photographs courtesy WaterAid/Elena Heatherwick