Gambia Red Cross youth use power of music to increase access to health care

Published: 2 May 2012 14:24 CET

May 8 is World Red Cross Red Crescent Day. Youth on the move is the theme for 2012 and we are calling upon young people to build on the existing Youth on the move initiative by taking action in one of three areas: 1) helping communities better prepare in the face of increasing disasters, 2) addressing health care in danger or inequitable access to health care, or 3) building a culture of non-violence and peace. Here is one example of Red Cross Red Crescent youth in action.

Youth initiative – music for humanity
Young people from the Gambia Red Cross Society have put together the “Humanity Band,” a project aimed at developing the musical talents of young volunteers of the Banjul and Kanifing Municipality Red Cross branches, fundraising for Red Cross programmes and increasing public awareness of disease control and prevention.

The Humanity Band – promoting access to health care
The Humanity Band is comprised of 15 young musicians. Through their love for music, the band empowers people to be proactive about health care in their community.

• Project coordinators organized sensitization campaigns on the prevention and control of diseases such as malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS in local communities.
• The Humanity Band participated in five campaigns, playing live music with educational health messages. Their performances were also broadcast on national television.
• Their musical messages on malaria prevention increased local health education and awareness about community access to treated mosquito nets, plus environmental hygiene.
• The band’s participation in social mobilization campaigns for polio vaccinations helped increase the number of people that signed up to get vaccinated, and the number of immunized children nationwide.
• In addition to the band’s 15 musicians, the project has trained other volunteers who perform with musical groups in Gambia to promote music as a positive way of living.
• An estimated 500,000 people have been reached through the music and proactive health messages of the Humanity Band.

Key achievements and the way forward
The sensitization campaigns proved to be instrumental in increasing public awareness on health issues and access to health care, with more than 500,000 people reached through the band’s musical messages. The campaigns also helped to create behavioural change in the community towards taboo subjects such as HIV/AIDS, stigma and discrimination.

The legacy of skills training provided to new volunteer musicians who perform in their own communities will ensure that these powerful musical messages are disseminated further. Additionally, donations received at Humanity Band performances supported programmes at two local branches.

Members of the Humanity Band themselves were inspired by the eagerness of volunteers to take up music as a social mobilizer, and will continue to play in their own communities, sharing messages of hope and health care to build stronger communities.