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Photo: Radio Ucamara (Nauta-Loreto)
Photo: Radio Ucamara (Nauta-Loreto)

Radio Ucamara fights COVID-19 and preserves language and culture in the Peruvian jungle

Radio Ucamara fights against COVID-19 through information and connection between the native communities while reaffirming their culture.

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In the depths of the Peruvian Amazon jungle, where the internet and social networks do not exist on a daily basis, radio fulfills several functions. It keeps communities informed and connected. It is a tool for organization and cultural, social, and political reaffirmation and vindication. Radio Ucamara is a community radio station operating for 29 years and is directed, produced, and conducted by communicators, citizens of the original Kukama people.

This community radio has invested its years of work, effort, and resources in these times of health crisis to document and inform, through a video clip and a series of spots on the contribution of medicinal plants and grandparents' and ancestors' knowledge to fight against COVID-19.

This initiative has been a survival tool in a territory where hospital infrastructure and western medicine have historically been absent and arrived late during the health emergency.

According to information by the Ministry of Health, Peru has registered a little more than 45,000 deaths due to COVID-19, 1,152 of which correspond to the Loreto region, where the Kukama live, and 3,126 indigenous people had died up to December last year.

During the pandemic, the radio was dedicated to developing content based on stories and experiences on preventive issues against the coronavirus.

The language and communication from memory, empathy, and mutual knowledge have been vital to reaching the communities and informing how some peers were preparing medicines and how they were taking them.  That was the campaign to isolate evil spirits and death.

"Ucamara's contribution is 'let's go to work,' that a people can represent themselves with pride, with joy. It is to show the people's own issues, to make them feel proud. If we don't work on that, what we do is marginalize a people, put them in the firing line, that sinks, nobody listens to a radio that does not revitalize", declared Tello Imaina, son of a Kukama father and Achuar mother and radio worker for 14 years.

Recognizing the community's contributions has collaborated in the resistance and survival of the native peoples, "in the most intimate bosom of our families, of our communities we have prepared our tea of sachajos, grapefruit, our cordoncillo.  With them, evil has found us with a strong immune system, capable of facing it, in the midst of the indifference of an absent and late health system. Medicinal plants have been the answer that we indigenous peoples have given to our own communities and to the world, their accurate and loving response at the same time denounces the urgency of a true intercultural health model that values and respects the wisdom of our people, our memory, our history", they explain.

The absence of the state in terms of health services, lack of personnel, medicines, in addition to the limited budget, transportation, and digital connectivity, has led these communities to be left out of information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

But projects like Radio Ucamara are betting on solidarity, organization, and coordination between radio, communities, and leaders to be a point of resistance and agents of change.

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