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The power of music – Guitars and ouds to mitigate cholera in Yemen

Kayan, 13 years, uses her guitar to raise awareness on immunization among her community in Aden.

By Marie Bracquemont, Reports Officer, UNICEF Yemen

Aden, Yemen, 14 May 2019 – When Kayan opened the case, she couldn’t believe it. A brand new pink guitar was laying there waiting for her fingers to play the chords she knows by heart. Kayan is 13 years old but she is already an experienced musician. Kayan is also very active in her community and since last year, she decided to join the Artist Forum in her home city of Aden to spread key messages about cholera prevention and the importance of vaccination and help the children to stay healthy.

In Yemen, the fight against cholera is far from being over. UNICEF and its partners managed to break the transmission and spread of cholera and acute water diarrhoea and prevented an outbreak at the scale seen in 2017. But today, the risk is still there. Nearly 300,000 suspected cases were reported with 580 total associated deaths since January, and children under the age of 5 years old remain the most at risk.

Low levels of sanitation services, contaminated water, lack of awareness about basic hygiene practices such as handwashing with soap and food hygiene drive the spread of these preventable diseases. In this context, UNICEF continues to focus on water and sanitation, cholera vaccination and creating awareness among the community, through a multisectoral response, which also includes Communication for Development activities such as concerts, sport events, community theater and household visits.

Music concerts are one of the community-based tools used by UNICEF to educate the populations on how to prevent and respond to cholera.

UNICEF established the Artist Forum last year. A total of 25 children and adolescents from the music, painting and drama sections of the Institute of Arts of Aden were selected and trained on communication for development techniques to use art as a channel to promote lifesaving hygiene and sanitation practices among their communities. The young artists were also given the opportunity to take part in live performances such as concerts, exhibitions and open dramas to engage more with the populations in high-risk cholera districts and during immunization campaigns and events.

25 young artists have been selected and trained by UNICEF to take part in the activities of the Artist Forum of Aden.

Musicians, such as Kayan, have received instruments to keep practicing their art. “I am very proud of my daughter, she is fulfilling her dream to become a professional guitar player and she is using music to keep people healthy,” says Mohammed, Kayan’s father.

“Through our activities, we want to make sure that children and adolescents are empowered and engaged as behaviors change agents,” says Ansar Rasheed (on the right), Communication for Development Officer of UNICEF Aden field office, here on the photo with Kayan and Jessica Dixon for UNICEF Yemen.

In Aden, UNICEF is making sure to empower children and adolescents and include them in the activities organized with the communities. “The musicians taking part in the Artist Forum have a direct relation with their communities and can engage with them better, through musical and outreach events. We use these communication approaches and other behavior change methodologies, to make sure we can reach the community with the knowledge and good practices necessary to adopt to save lives,” says Ansar Rasheed, Communication for Development Officer of UNICEF Aden field office.

 “UNCEF has invested a lot in these young artists, providing them with training on community engagement and communication skills and supporting them in living their passion for music,” says Fouad Mohammed, Head of Aden Institute of Arts, as he receives an oud for the young musicians of the forum.

In Aden, the activities of the Artist Forum are implemented by UNICEF with the support of Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, KSRelief; and the Qatar Fund For Development, which are committed to empower children and adolescents and support UNICEF cholera integrated response in Yemen, to ensure children can grow healthy and protected from preventable water-borne diseases.



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