Mustapha Dumbuya is a journalist from Sierra Leone in West Africa. A gentle young man in his thirties with a quiet manner and engaging smile, he’s also a local hero in his home country for the powerful way in which he used community radio to fight the Ebola epidemic — and save lives.

“Ebola is a very mysterious disease — in Port Loko, Sierra Leone, one of the epicenters of the epidemic, people didn’t know what was happening,” he says. “There was a lack of information and communication. People tried to relate it to witch craft.”

The government was putting out messages about the dangers of Ebola, but, explains Dumbuya, there was an issue of mistrust. People were not listening.

Dumbuya’s own family had been affected — by September 2014, nine months into the epidemic, he had lost several family members to the disease.

But Dumbuya isn’t the kind to crumble in the face of such a challenge. “I set out to do something, to change the perception,” he says. “Towns were going to be wiped out because of ignorance.” In his role as a producer with BBC Media Action, he used skills developed through training with Journalists for Human Rights to produce a public service announcement in Temne, the most widely spoken language in the region.

Dumbuya asked someone who was respected in the community, whose family was affected by Ebola, to speak about his experiences and the reality of the disease. “The message was simple,” Dumbuya says. “Take it [Ebola] seriously; don’t be fooled.” The message had a big impact. “Because the speaker was well respected, people started listening and taking precautions,” Dumbuya says. “And this helped to save lives.”

Dumbuya is the 2015–16 Gordon N. Fisher/JHR Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto.

This is the work of Journalists for Human Rights in action.

Journalists for Human Rights is Canada’s largest media development organization. JHR works with journalists in communities around the world to report on human rights issues. Based in Toronto, with offices and programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Jordan and Northern Ontario, JHR trains reporters in some of the world’s most challenging places to raise human rights awareness and propose solutions to local human rights issues — issues like sexual violence in the DR Congo, lack of policing in Indigenous communities in Northern Canada, and the legal status of Syrian migrants in Jordan.

As JHR has seen time and time again, in thirteen years of operations around the world, when media puts the spotlight on human rights, positive change happens.

When human rights are protected, people’s lives get better.

When donors support JHR, they nurture lifesaving potential in thousands of journalists. This empowers local voices, and helps transform communities.

For more information, or to make a contribution: WWW.JHR.CA Knowledge is Power.