Liberia: Spreading the word about Ebola through music
“Take away the fear, don’t hide yourself. People can still survive from Ebola,” so say the lyrics of the Ebola Rap, a song written by Charles Yegba, a Liberian artist seeking to raise awareness about the virus in his community.
But Charles did not always think that way. He is one of the many Liberians who, at the beginning of the outbreak, did not believe that the disease existed. “I thought it was a lie (invented) to collect money because at that moment I hadn´t seen people affected in my community,” the singer says.
His opinion changed some weeks ago when a group of people blocked a street in Monrovia because a man was lying on the ground with symptoms of Ebola.
“At that moment, I started to believe. I began to see that other countries were being affected, that many people were starting to change their minds,” he says.
Charles, leader of the AFROCO music group, is planning now to record his song and create a video to disseminate his message across Liberia, one of the west African countries severely affected by the Ebola virus disease outbreak.
This Ebola outbreak is the biggest ever recorded in terms of the number of people who have been infected, the total number of deaths and the geographical spread.
“Please go to the hospital” if you feel fever, headache, diarrhoea or vomiting , says one of the verses of the song. Charles, 41 years old with 2 children, is taking every opportunity to raise awareness among his neighbours, friends and family. He thinks that music is a strong channel to reach out to the community.
"Take away the fear, don’t hide yourself. People can still survive from Ebola".
Charles Yegba, a Liberian rap artist
Local Liberian radio stations also play other songs about the virus. It is not unusual to see little boys singing them in the streets.
Wide diffusion of these messages about the disease, meetings held by community leaders to talk about Ebola and the increase of cases in several areas of the country have changed many peoples’ perceptions about Ebola.
To control the outbreak, it is important to change perceptions
To control the outbreak, it is important to change perceptions. Strict control measures are also necessary, such as making sure that people who have Ebola symptoms go straight to a health facility and help provide the names of people with whom they have had close contact.
“Some members of the community thought it was a bad spirit, a devil or poisoning, but then they started to realize that it was a disease and that we have to be careful,” says Makoya Kollie, a 19-year-old woman who dreams about becoming a medical doctor. “Ebola has killed many people and it is real," she says.
Education and communication are crucial to make sure that everyone – health workers and the general public – understands what Ebola is, how it is transmitted and how they can protect themselves. Through strong community involvement, various initiatives are starting to emerge, such as this song that Charles wrote “to kick Ebola out of Liberia”.