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Burkina Faso

UNICEF-sponsored Tour du Burkina Faso pedals a message of child survival

© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2010
Cyclists compete in the UNICEF-sponsored Tour du Burkina Faso, which brought UNICEF child-survival messages to millions.

By Modeste Yameogo

OUGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, 18 November 2010 – The recent 24th edition of the Tour du Burkina Faso was a great opportunity for UNICEF to communicate messages on child survival. More than 4 million Burkinabe received information on critical family practices as the tour passed through their towns and villages.

The bicycle race has been held in Burkina Faso since 1987. This year’s event ran from 22 to 31 October, with the participation of 83 cyclists who raced a total of 1,318 km. During the 10-day tour, the cyclists were greeted enthusiastically at each stop by children, women and men who came out to welcome them.

‘Important messages’

“With thousands of people of all ages – in particular an impressive number of young people and children – who gathered to see the cyclists,” said UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso Hervé Peries, “UNICEF has had an excellent opportunity to pass on important messages on the survival and development of children.”

© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2010
Spectators at the UNICEF-sponsored bicycle race in Burkina Faso.

Those messages – imparted via activities, games and sketches that were developed by a group of young comedians – included information on exclusive breastfeeding and complementary infant feeding; handwashing with soap; use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria; use of oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoeal dehydration; and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

In addition, certain specific topics were addressed in local areas where the rights of children are not being protected, with messages on girls’ access to education in the Sahel region, for example, and on child labour in cotton-growing areas. At the same time, giant placards deployed along the tour route reinforced basic messages on education for all children, immunization against childhood diseases and other issues.

Cycling icon inspires the young

UNICEF also facilitated child participation in the event. Boys and girls were selected to take part in a closed-circuit 5-km race at each stage of the tour. The delighted winners got school bags, school stationary and bikes as prizes. A total of 300 children participated in the races.

© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2010
UNICEF highlighted on route of the Burkina Faso bicycle tour.

Salamata Sawadogo, 10, who came first in children’s race during the Kaya leg of the tour, was overjoyed to receive her bicycle. “My mum was right to encourage me to participate,” she said. “I’m happy and would like to thank the organizers for including children in the Tour du Faso.”

To add to the excitement, this year’s Tour du Burkina Faso featured an iconic figure in international cycling, Eddy Merckx, whose real name is Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Merckx. A citizen of Belgium, he agreed to be the patron for the children who took part in the tour.

“UNICEF has passed on good messages in favour of children throughout all legs of the tour,” Baron Merckx said, adding his hope “that the children who participated in these competitions will be the great champions of tomorrow.”



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