The United Nations peacekeeping mission to Mali (MINUSMA) has donated equipment to eight local radio stations to strengthen the partnership between regional stations and the UN Mission to ensure the country is better informed.

Inexpensive but powerful advocacy tools in Mali - community radio stations remain the most effective means of disseminating information to local populations and aid cultural identification.

Minusma's Office of Communications and Public Information last week donated a dozen voice recorders to the local radio stations including Issa Ber, Kolol Soboundou, Télé, Djimba, Lac Faguibine, Diri, Barikobé and Binegua. The stations all broadcast around the regions of Niafounké, Goundam and Diré near the Niger River in the badly ravaged Timbuktu region of Mali.

Al-Qaeda took power in Mali's second city Timbuktu after hijacking an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the country's Saharan north in 2012, seizing large swathes of land and threatening the capital, Bamako.

France's 2013 military intervention and UN peacekeeping mission have since returned control of the region to the Malian government, but Islamist groups continue to operate across the vast desert areas in the north, often crossing in and out the porous borders of neighbouring countries.

The handouts were part of an assessment of the social and security situation in the country conducted between 7 and 11 November.

In Mali, at least 350 community, business and community radio stations are affiliated to the Union of Free Radio and Television of Mali (URTEL), created in 1991 in the capital, Bamako. These radios can help toensure a definitive return of peace to the region.

"In Mali, radio occupies a special place in our habits, and in our lives. Through a proactive liberalisation, radio has been deployed throughout the country, in all municipalities and accompanying the local and national governance and making decentralisation a social, political and administrative reality, " said Alhaji Alhousseini, coordinator URTEL in the Timbuktu region.

Last October, the UN also donated equipment to radio stations Lafia, Bouctou, Jamana, Tahanint, Fréquence Santé, Alfaida, Al farouck, Kalémé and the rural radio of national broadcaster ORTM operating in the urban municipality of Timbuktu.