Child survival at the heart of Tour du Burkina Faso
By Modeste YAMEOGO
Ouagadougou, 3 November 2010– The 24 edition of the Tour du Burkina Faso, which came to an end on 31 October 2010, was a great opportunity for UNICEF to communicate messages on child survival in Burkina Faso. More than four million Burkinabe were reached with these messages as the tour passed through the main towns. The Tour du Faso is a bicycle race which has been held in Burkina Faso since 1987. This year the Tour began on 22 October 2010 with the participation of 83 cyclists who cycled 1,318 kilometres through the towns and countryside. During the ten days, the cyclists were greeted at each stop by children, women and men who had come to enthusiastically welcome the first arrivals. Since the tour remains free in terms of accessibility and since it reaches nearly all the towns in the country, UNICEF ensured that there were messages on applying the six essential family practices during each of the ten stages of the event.
Activities, games and sketches were developed by a group of young comedians on exclusive breastfeeding, hand washing, use of insecticide treated mosquito nets, use of oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoea, adequate complementary infant feeding and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. In addition certain specific topics were addressed in areas where the rights of children are not fulfilled, such as girls’ education (Sahel region) and child labour (in areas where cotton is grown).
On giant placards were simple messages such as: school is mandatory for all children; all children should be immunized; wash your hands with soap; and sleep under mosquito nets. The animators for the Tour de Faso repeated these messages in favour of children to the crowds who lined the roadsides
UNICEF also facilitated the participation of children at this event. More than 30 children (boys and girls) were selected to take part in a closed circuit of five kilometres. Different prizes consisting of school bags, school stationary and bikes were awarded to the children. Parents and children alike were pleased with the activities. Salamata Sawadogo, a ten year-old girl who came first in the Kaya leg was overjoyed to receive her bicycle. “My mum was right to encourage me to participate in this Tour. Now on I have my own bike, I’m happy and would like to thank the organisers for including children in the Tour du Faso.” A total of 300 children participated in the Tour du Faso.
This year’s event was particularly special as it was honoured by the presence of an iconic figure in international cycling figure. Eddy Merckx, real name Edouard Louis Joseph (Eddy),and a citizen of Belgium accepted to be the patron for the children who were taking part in Tour du Faso for the first time. He too appreciated UNICEF’s participation, “UNICEF has passed on good messages in favour of children throughout all legs of the Tour. I am very happy and hope that the children who participated in these competitions will be the great champions of tomorrow,” he said.
“With thousands of people of all ages, in particular an impressive number of young people and children who gathered to see the cyclists and greet them at the various meeting points, UNICEF has had an excellent opportunity to pass on important messages on the survival and development of children,” stated Hervé Peries, UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso.