Daan corona or how the Senegalese defeat the pandemic

Deszczowy Dakar660

The rainy season in Senegal promotes social isolation

Krystyna Knypl

COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world. The fighting methods used by individual countries vary. Among them stands out Senegal, a country with extensive experience and skills to effectively fight dangerous infectious diseases. So far, the number of cases of disease amounting to 16 665 and 341 deaths (as of 11.12.2020) indicates that an effective strategy was adopted.

Past example

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Senegalese island of Gorée was one of the yellow fever outbreaks. The epidemic was contained and the inhabitants of the island erected a monument in memory of those who fought against the dangerous disease. On the pedestal of the monument there is an inscription:

Dead doctors and pharmacists, victims of their involvement during the epidemic.

This monument is a unique and moving symbol of a culture of expressing gratitude to those who, by saving the sick, often lose their health and even their lives.

United in battle

Although there are only seven doctors for every 100 000 inhabitants of Senegal, Senegalese people cope much better with coronavirus than many other countries. In response to the epidemic the country’s airspace, restaurants, schools, and mosques were closed. On March 23, 2020, President Macky Sall declared a state of emergency, introducing travel restrictions and a curfew from 20.00.

The state of emergency was lifted on 30 June 2020, the obligation to wear a mask in public places, on public transport, at work, and in stores remained.

Diagnosis of coronavirus infections is coordinated by the Pasteur Institute in Dakar and the University Hospital in Fann district.

– In the fight against coronavirus we had to take into account the local specificity. We are stronger when we are all united in the fight against the coronavirus – says Dr. Amadou Alpha Sall. He is an experienced doctor in infectious diseases. The list of 167 scientific publications of which he is a co-author testifies to his achievements and experience.

In Senegal, at the beginning of the pandemic, another unique solution was used - people who had to undergo quarantine were directed to hotels. The state took over these facilities during the first period of the pandemic to be able to effectively isolate those requiring it.

Mural and songs about coronavirus

In a country where half of the population is illiterate, it was necessary to use unusual media to fight the coronavirus. One of them is street art. Not only in the cities of Senegal, but all over Africa, graffiti artists paint pictures to educate the public on social and health issues.

For example, during the Ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic in West Africa, artists painted murals to inform people about the fatal consequences of the virus infection. While in Europe graffiti is often seen as vandalism and considered an illegal act, in Senegal graffiti has never been banned and is seen as art. Issues such as illegal immigration, health, environment, and respect for the elderly are addressed.

The graffiti artists have decided to reach as many people as possible by creating murals illustrating proper hygiene practices, encouraging them to stay at home at night and to respect the curfew. These paintings depict people washing their hands with soap and water and sneezing in the elbow bend. Sometimes the pictures are accompanied by such slogans as Took Len Sen Keur (Stay Home), Xeex Corona (Fight the Crown), or an emergency phone number. The work is usually done on walls in public places that many people pass through: at road crossings, hospitals, schools.

Doctors in the fight against COVID-19 in Senegal are also supported by musicians and singers. In April 2020 Daan Corona’s music album was released, which in the local language Wolof means Coronavirus Disaster. The famous Senegalese musician Youssou Ndour calls people to stay home and wash their hands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwT19-up78M. A remake of this song performed by young Senegalese artists https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D1y3mQtxyA was also released, as well as other songs about the fight against the coronavirus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZfKS8HlSzM.

Polish aid

In Dakar, a Polish aid program “Supporting the prevention of Covid-19 disease in Thies, Kaossara Fall district” is being implemented. This program includes the purchase of touchless mobile washrooms, surgical masks, disposable gloves, visors, disinfectant gels, and cleaning products (https://www.gov.pl/web/senegal/polska-pomoc-2020---wsparcie-zapobiegania-zachorowaniom-na-covid-19-w-thies).

The fight continues

In the second wave of the pandemic, Senegal is expanding its strategy with free access for everyone to free coronavirus tests.

Krystyna Knypl

Photo: Katarzyna Kowalska