Despite being preventable and treatable, malaria kills more African
children than any other disease. Senegalese superstar, Youssou N'Dour,
has teamed up with an American nonprofit to turn the tide on this
devastating disease through pop music.
The most recent release by international singing
sensation, Youssou N'Dour, tells the story of a man whose girlfriend
has left him because he got malaria. As he seeks sympathy from members
of the community, they tell him it is all his fault. He should have
protected himself by sleeping under a treated mosquito net.
song, whose title, "Xeex Sibburu," means "Fight Malaria," is the result
of a collaboration between the Youssou N'Dour Foundation and U.S.-based
nonprofit, "Malaria No More."
The two-year initiative is called
"Surround Sound : Senegal." It is part of Malaria No More's unique
mission to apply marketing techniques from the private sector to the
humanitarian fight to end malaria deaths worldwide. Youssou N'Dour,
they say, is arguably the best local marketer in West Africa.
Leading cause of death in children
kills about one million people annually, and nine out of 10 of them are
Africans. Pregnant women and children are the most vulnerable to the
disease, and it is estimated that every 30 seconds a child dies of
malaria. Malaria also impedes economic development and is one of the
major contributors to poverty in Africa.
Martin Edlund is
Malaria No More's Senegal Project Director. Though the tools to treat,
prevent and eventually eradicate malaria exist, he says too many
Africans simply accept the disease as a fact of life. Therefore,
mobilizing communities is key.
"That is the point of this
song," he said. "The chorus is Bul ñu ray, which essentially means
no more excuses, and Youssou is saying we all know this problem, we all
know what causes it and we all know how to prevent it, so there are no
more excuses it is time to take care of it as a society. "
to rapid diagnostic testing and government-led awareness campaigns,
Senegal reported dramatic drops in malaria mortality earlier this year
but the disease is still a leading cause of death in children.
Music - powerful tool
the song was released last week, Senegal's Health Ministry and its
international partners launched a campaign to distribute two million
insecticide-treated mosquito nets nationwide. The goal of the week-long
effort was to get every child under age five sleeping under a net. The
song was also distributed to radio stations and 1300 health huts around
Edlund says the song was created to inspire a
grassroots, community-led education effort and reinforce the work of
Senegalese health workers.
"They are telling us what works here
in Senegal, what they have seen for 25 years works in marketing to the
village level with music, and now applying that to malaria, so the
song, Xeex Sibburu, is in Wolof," he said.
"It is also
recorded in Sereer and Pulaar, the second and third most popular
languages, here in Senegal, is the starting point. It is a statement
of purpose and a challenge to all sectors of Senegalese society to get
involved and fight malaria. That is what Xeex Sibburu means in Wolof,"
Pikine was one of two Dakar suburbs targeted in the
campaign. It is a poor, overcrowded neighborhood whose sandy streets
are notorious for flooding during the rainy season, making them ideal
breeding grounds for mosquitos.
As part of last week's campaign,
health workers rented an SUV and drove it through the neighborhoods
with the song blaring from speakers mounted on top. Volunteers went
door-to-door handing out coupons for free mosquito nets and giving
vitamin-A supplements and deworming medicine to children.
Dr. Abdou Karim Diop is the chief medical officer for Pikine. He says response to the song has been overwhelmingly positive.
says the song is a welcome tool because it reinforces the distribution
efforts and the awareness campaign. A particularly positive factor is
that the song was recorded in so many languages, therefore a lot of
people can identify with it. He says people really love the song.
N'Dour says music is a powerful educational tool in Africa, and his
popularity has given him both a responsibility and an opportunity to
He says he feels he can do more than music. He
sees all the problems that people experience in Senegal, and if he
thinks he can bring something to an issue, he does it. He believes
people now need other sources, besides just politicians, to see that
their issues are being recognized. Though he is happy to do it, he
says he plans to remain just a musician who is involved in activism.
N'Dour says malaria is a reality of everyday life in Senegal, but it
does not have to be. Once malaria is under control, he says the
strategies developed in this Surround Sound campaign can be applied to