The Charity that Saves Lives with Radio, not Doctors

In 2015 alone, 1.8 million African children died before their fifth birthday from easily treatable diseases. Having developed in recent decades, routine checkups and basic medical care are no longer too hard to get for many communities in poorer nations. The problem is instead knowing when to get help. And this is where Development Media International (DMI) comes in.


Founded in 2005, DMI is different from other charities. Rather than focusing on the “supply side” of poverty intervention eg. providing medical services, it works on the “demand side”. With local actors, the charity makes short films and radio shows that provide basic yet crucial information on topics from family planning and nutrition to tuberculosis. Its aim is  encourage families to make best usage of local healthcare facilities.

Does it Work?

Yes. In fact, DMI’s media programs manage to add a year of healthy life for an average of $20– making it one of the cheapest health interventions out there. Having operated in 11 countries on four continents, the charity has several success stories around the world.

In 2006 it managed to see a 26% increase in people taking tests for tuberculosis in Brazil thanks to 30-second TV adverts and 60-second radio adverts shown for one month. Its media program in Burkina Faso held between 2012 and 2015 was also a success, seeing a 35% increase in parents seeking treatment for children with symptoms of diseases like malaria. 

The Future

DMI is always looking for ways to expand their coverage to benefit more developing nations with little healthcare knowledge. Currently it’s working to raise $13.5m for a three-year media program in Guinea, Mali and Niger to target pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. With this money, it hopes to save 15,500 children’s lives for $870 each.

To conclude, DMI uses radio and television to spread awareness on how to treat illnesses across the developing world. A “demand side” charity rather than a “supply side” charity, its aim is not to provide developing nations with healthcare, but rather educate them on how best to use it. 

Sarah Chung

Raised in Hong Kong, now living in New York. A serial optimist, I love finding ways to improve to enjoy life even more.