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Senegal: Myth-busting Vital to Tackle Pandemic as Misinformation Grows

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, access to reliable information on COVID-19 has proven to be a challenge as harmful and unfounded rumors about the virus started to spread fast through social media. This global issue has precipitated a rise in xenophobic attacks and hate speech against certain groups of people, particularly migrants.

In Senegal, returned migrants have taken it upon themselves to fight unproven remedies and harmful misinformation by taking photos of themselves communicating positive or preventative actions.


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The virus affects children and old people alike. Let’s stay vigilant.” Photo: IOM/Bamba Badiane

This spontaneous campaign refutes unfounded rumors such as “heat will kill the virus”, “black people are immune to the virus” or “garlic can be a cure” which are spread mainly by word-of-mouth. These Volunteers also share necessary measures people can take like wearing masks to protect themselves and their communities.

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“The heat does not kill the virus.” Photo: IOM/Bamba Badiane

Bamba Badiane is one of the campaign participants. He was assisted at one of IOM’s transit centers in Niger before returning to Senegal through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. Upon return, he was able to reunite with his family after five years of separation. Badiane has since joined efforts to raise awareness about the dangers and risks of irregular migration and, more recently, to inform people about COVID-19.

“After I returned, I chose to get involved in everything that affects my community,” said Badiane.

The network of returnees leading this campaign was established as part of the Migrants as Messengers (MaM) programme implemented by IOM.


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“I stay at home to protect myself and my family.” Photo: IOM/Bamba Badiane.

The campaign aims to promote positive and safe measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Ramatoulaye Diène, another returnee participating in the campaign, stresses the importance of wearing masks and regular hand-washing.


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Ramatoulaye Diène reminds people to wear a mask and to wash their hands regularly. Photo: IOM/Bamba Badiane.

Diène, a journalist and news presenter at radio Afin du Grand Yoff in Dakar, joined the Migrants as Messengers programme following reports about the living conditions of Senegalese migrants in Morocco. She now lends her journalistic skills to raising awareness about the risks of irregular migration.


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“I always use a tissue when I sneeze and throw it in the trash after. I want to help raise awareness, and lead by example because it concerns us all,” said Diène. Photo: IOM/Bamba Badiane.

The Migrants as Messengers programme supports returnees to lead awareness raising activities in West Africa to help people to make informed decisions about migration. Participating countries are Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The network of more than 250 returnees is supporting the response for COVID-19 through risks communications and community engagement activities.

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A shopkeeper shows good practices by making gel available for his customers. Photo: IOM/Bamba Badiane.