Fighting Malaria in Senegal with Creativity

By Julia White
Grants-M&E Manager, ChildFund Senegal

I step onto the stage and see in front of me through the bright lights, a sea of thousands of screaming Senegalese fans. Youssou Ndour, the famous Senegalese, Grammy-winning singer and activist stands in front of me as his fans try to get his attention. His voice is full of passion as he talks to the crowd, urging every single one of them, rich and poor, young and old, to stand-up against malaria.

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More than 15,000 fans attend the Xeex Sibbiru (Fight Malaria) concert. (Photo: (c) Catherine Karnow/Malaria No More)

I stand among several key partners who have been asked to go on stage at this concert in Guediwaye, Senegal, to be recognized for their collaboration with Malaria No More and the Fondation Youssou Ndour in making the first step of the Surround Sound: Senegal campaign a reality. I feel very proud to work for ChildFund Senegal as I hear Youssou Ndour call out our name and personally thank us.

The idea behind Surround Sound: Senegal is to mix multiple communication channels with the best local marketers from the worlds of entertainment, sport, faith and business to create a 360-degree malaria education and advocacy campaign in Senegal that reaches everyone at every level. The first step of the campaign has been the use of Senegal fan-favorite Youssou Ndour to develop a song promoting malaria prevention.

The song is called Xeex Sibbiru, which in English means “fight malaria.” The song challenges Senegalese to see the impact malaria has on all aspects of their lives and to see that they need to choose to take action and take responsibility to prevent malaria in their families and their communities.

ChildFund Senegal and Malaria No More share the objective of promoting malaria prevention in Senegal. ChildFund Senegal leads a consortium of NGOs (ChildFund Senegal, Africare, Catholic Relief Services, Counterpart International, Plan and World Vision) in the implementation of the USAID-funded Community Health Project.

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Youssou Ndour thanks the partners involved in the malaria-prevention campaign. (Photo (c) Catherine Karnow/Malaria No More)

The project includes two components: an integrated package of community-based maternal and child health services, and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) community malaria component. Both components are community-based prevention and treatment efforts that involve significant mass-distribution of drugs and information/education/communication via community Health Huts. The PMI component is implemented in more than 1,370 health huts and covers an estimated 4 million people, including children under age 5 and pregnant women.

Through this USAID-funded Project, ChildFund Senegal and the consortium of NGOs distributed the song at the community level in 13 out of the 14 regions of Senegal and now continue to conduct awareness-raising sessions in conjunction with the song. Different target groups, such as grandmothers, heads-of-households, mothers, children and community leaders, are organized to listen to the song and either discuss it or create their own songs, skits or stories related to what they heard.

This approach ensures that all the different decision-makers and target groups at the community level are getting the same messages and are processing the information in a way that is meaningful to them. The song was also distributed at the community level via community radio and continues to be aired.

A group of grandmotherss listen to the song via cassette tape as part of the community-mobilization effort.

A group of grandmothers listen to the "Xeex Sibbiru" (fight malaria) song on cassette as part of the community-mobilization effort. (Photo (c) Catherine Karnow/Malaria No More)

In the program region of Mbour alone, the community activities, not including the local radio, have already been able to reach 18,339 with the song and its powerful malaria-prevention message.

ChildFund Senegal and the consortium are helping to ensure the bottom-up coverage of the Surround Sound: Senegal campaign. Malaria No More and the Fondation Youssou NDour are ensuring the top-down coverage with mass media such as the launch concert, and national and regional radio diffusion. The different local marketers from sports, entertainment, business and religion that join the campaign will ensure the side coverage.

Having been involved in malaria prevention in Senegal since 1998, ChildFund Senegal is interested to see the impact this 360 degree approach will have and is hopeful that this is just the push Senegal needs to take malaria prevention to the next level.

For more information about our work in Senegal, click here.31 in 31

More on Senegal
Population: 12.5 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 4.6 million children and families
Did You Know?: About 75% of Senegal’s population lives in rural areas. All Senegalese speak an indigenous language, of which Wolof has the largest usage.

What’s next: An update from Angola

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