Some of Africa’s best-known musicians have recorded a song to raise awareness of Ebola and help people understand how they can protect themselves from the disease.
The song, Africa Stop Ebola, features contributions from the Malian musicians Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangaré and Kandia Kouyaté, the Guinean singers Mory Kante and Sia Tolno, the Ivorian reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly, the Congolese vocalist Barbara Kanam and the Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi.
Its lyrics, which were written by the musicians and Carlos Chirinos – an academic and development practitioner who specialises in behavioural change communication, music and radio in Africa – are intended to combine advice with hope.
Sung in French and indigenous languages spoken widely in west Africa, they stress the importance of trusting doctors, not touching sick or dead people, and proper sanitation and hygiene.
Between choruses of “Ebola, Ebola / invisible enemy”, the musicians sing “Dear parents / Follow the advice of medical authorities / Ebola came to hurt us / Respect their advice”, and “Ebola is a p roblem for us / We cannot greet someone / You cannot kiss someone / It does not mean that person makes you ashamed / It’s just a reality”
According to Chirinos, the lyrics were developed to be as clear as possible and to dispel the myths surrounding the disease. “We hope that the song will do two things,” he said. “First, that it will rebuild people’s trust in the health services in their countries. There’s been a total lack of trust because of all the misinformation and a lot of cases of people going to churches and local healers to try to get Ebola medicine.”
The second aim, he said, was to spread hope: “We’re trying to send the message that this situation can be overcome. We’re using the fame and reputations of these well-established artists to reassure listeners about what they should be doing.”
The song will be distributed to radio stations across Africa with support from the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters. An accompanying video will be broadcast on TV stations in Europe and across Africa.
Its release comes as the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launches an unprecedented appeal from the public to tackle the Ebola crisis, and the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, warned “the only way to stop Ebola is to stop it at its source”.
The DEC – which appeals on behalf of 13 aid NGOs, including the British Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children – has never before asked for help in a single-disease epidemic.
The decision to ask for funds through all the main UK broadcasters on Thursday has been taken because Ebola is not just killing people, but also destroying livelihoods and communities.
“This appeal is completely unprecedented and that is a sign of just how serious the situation in west Africa has become,” said the DEC’s chief executive, Saleh Saeed. “In its 50-year history the DEC has launched appeals for humanitarian disasters caused by floods, famines, earthquake, typhoons and countless conflicts. We have never run an appeal in response to a disease outbreak – until today.”
On Tuesday, Ban said the international community had to pull together to fight the epidemic and called for efforts to be focused on west Africa. “Ebola is a major global crisis that demands a massive and immediate global response,” he told reporters during a visit to Ethiopia. “No country or organisation can defeat Ebola alone. We all have a role to play.”