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Migrant Returnees Lead Community Outreach for COVID-19 in West Africa

West Africa
Press Release
Bamba Badiane, Migrants as Messengers volunteer in Senegal, holds up a handwritten message as part of a Covid-19 myth-busting photo campaign. The words, in Wolof, translate as: “Garlic does not cure [coronavirus], let's respect sanitary measures”.

In response to the growing Covid-19 pandemic, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Migrants as Messengers project is raising awareness to prevent the spread of the disease. Youthful volunteers across West Africa are spreading the word in vulnerable communities.  

The 248 volunteers from seven West African countries are returning migrants, trained in peer-to-peer communication. They provide a critical link when disseminating information on Covid-19 to remote areas.  

Collectively, these volunteers have produced over 70 Covid-19 awareness raising products on multimedia platforms that are specific to individual cultural contexts. They often use local languages or dialects.  

“As a returnee, this is a very important undertaking for me. It is my belief that the COVID–19 outbreak affects migrants disproportionately,” explained Ebrima Sambo, a Migrants as Messenger volunteer in The Gambia. “I am really honoured that, despite the challenges right now, I am playing my part to fight COVID–19 in my country.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit a total of 52 African countries, among which 23 are in West and Central Africa. While the virus was slow to reach the continent compared to other parts of the world, infection has grown exponentially in recent weeks and continues to spread. West Africa has 3,202 confirmed Covid-19 cases.  

Côte d'Ivoire: Migrants as Messengers volunteers produced and disseminated 32 videos to raise awareness about Covid-19, and distributed prevention kits to communities (handwashing stations, soap and hydro-alcoholic solutions) coordinating with Regional Committees to Combat Irregular Migration (CRLMI).  

The Gambia: Migrants as Messengers volunteers have produced a photo and video social media campaign, encouraging regular handwashing, cough etiquette, social distancing and staying at home. 

Guinea: Migrants as Messengers volunteers trained in COVID-19 awareness-raising techniques support authorities battling the virus. Volunteers produce prevention videos and will train mothers on preventive measures. 

Liberia: Migrants as Messengers volunteers produced awareness-raising videos and comic strips promoting basic hygiene measures. They also assisted in opening handwashing stations. 

Nigeria: Migrants as Messengers volunteers produced two awareness raising videos on hygiene prevention measures and support the #Stayhome challenge, where volunteers explain the initiatives, they are doing at home to motivate peers to promote physical distancing. 

Senegal: Migrants as Messengers volunteers produced a photo campaign dispelling Covid-19 myths, as well as two short videos in the Wolof language shared through WhatsApp.  

Sierra Leone: Migrants as Messengers volunteers wrote and produced the song Corona Virus is Real.  The song, in Krio language, is being distributed on social media and through WhatsApp.  

A key lesson IOM and other organizations learned from the Ebola crisis hitting the region in 2014 is the importance of community involvement,” explained IOM’s Viviane Nzeusseu, Regional Migration and Health Thematic Specialist for West and Central Africa. “It is crucial to include communities in communications and ensure that tailored messaging is conveyed through effective communication channels. Acceptance at local level is critical in mitigating risks of contamination,” she said.  

Migrants as Messengers is a Government of the Netherlands-funded peer-to-peer awareness-raising campaign that empowers young people in West Africa to make informed decisions about migration.  

Watch the song Corona Virus is Real from Sierra Leone.  


This article originally appeared on IOM Press Room on 17 April 2020 here.

For more information, please contact Florence Kim at IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa; Tel: +221 78 620 62 13; Email: