The initiative, promoted by Clowns Without Borders, has already accomplished more than 500 activities in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso.
The year 2020 has been marked by the irruption of Covid-19, which has caused havoc around the world and taken the lives of millions of people. In countries on the African continent, the population has apparently not suffered so hard the effects of this disease, although there is still a lack of data to make concise statements in this regard.
Consequently, and considering that in these countries there are other diseases that affect and concern the local population, the level of awareness about Covid-19 is much lower than in other parts of the world.
For this reason, in coordination with the Ministry of Health of Burkina Faso and the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation, Clowns Without Borders is carrying out an awareness project to prevent Covid-19 in 90 schools in the 'non loti' districts - without light or tap water - from the city of Bobo-Dioulasso.
The team of artists from the region –Davo Gallego and Lucie Bettencourt–, together with a group of local artists, set out to execute 540 stage activities with the aim of sharing fun while raising awareness among children about the importance to prevent this disease.
"Our long experience in Burkina Faso has shown us the serious deterioration of human rights, especially in the field of health, which has an impact on high mortality and disease rates, especially in children", says Davo Gallego, artist of SocialClown who participates in the project in the region. The current global context has further aggravated this situation of deprivation, mainly due to the lack of awareness of the population on issues such as hygiene and early detection of diseases.
The school, the ideal framework for transformation
Children aged 9 to 12 are at the age when the critical spirit appears and therefore begin to come into a major contact with reality. In addition, they are in prepuberty, a stage in which health routines are consolidated.
"According to our own experience and consultations with local teachers and pediatricians, children under the age of 12 are more likely to put into practice what they learn", says Gallego, "because, for the most part, they are those in charge of helping with household tasks. Therefore, schools are presented as the ideal framework for transformation, where students can acquire good hygiene habits to apply at school and then in their homes with their families".
A bet on the present and the future
"The project began in September 2020. An awareness-raising activity on good hygienic practices was first created in order to reduce infectious diseases. Afterwards, 20 days of rehearsals were held with the local company of artists to train them in the execution of the activity in the schools", explains Gallego. "Today we have accomplished 528 activities in 88 schools, reaching more than 45,000 children".
The campaign will run until July 2021. In terms of figures, the ultimate goal is to reduce Covid-19 infections by 35% in the 'non loti' neighborhoods of Bobo-Dioulasso, and by 15% people treated at Souro Sanou Hospital because of other infectious and parasitic diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, meningitis and diarrhea.
With this intervention, in addition to raising awareness among the population, Clowns Without Borders team is looking for solutions so that teachers can continue with this task. "A hygiene game has been designed that is left in each school with an activity guide for teachers, so that they can continue with the awareness-raising activities independently", says Gallego.
Initially, convincing the Burkina Faso education authorities of the need to raise awareness about Covid-19 was a complicated task due to the apparent low incidence of the disease in the country. But Clowns Without Borders team uses a methodology with which children learn while having fun, which has been very contrasted over the years. "Now, school principals and teachers are constantly calling us to ask when we will be back", concludes Gallego.