Comics created to help prevent the spread of Ebola
6 November 2014
Young people in Ghana are helping in the fight to prevent the spread of Ebola through an innovative comic strip project developed by Cardiff University and delivered by Africaid WhizzKids United (WKU), an international NGO based in South Africa.
Thirty young people in Ghana – a country in West Africa so far not affected by the Ebola virus outbreak – have designed comic strips to help spread key messages to the community. The project follows in the footsteps of a similar HIV-focused campaign in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Dr Lisa El Refaie, an expert in visual storytelling from Cardiff University's School of English, Communication and Philosophy, designed the comic strip drawing workshops for both projects in South Africa and Ghana.
She explains the latest project: "Visual language is a formidable tool to convey messages quickly. Comics are enjoyed and shared by many young people in Africa, and they are easily produced and distributed. Our experience of the HIV-themed project in South Africa has demonstrated that.
"For this project we've taken the lead from young people in Ghana. In August WKU worked with the young people, aged 16-21, in drawing workshops in the Northern Region of Ghana asking for their main concerns in everyday life. Ebola emerged as a clear worry, alongside other diseases and issues such as domestic violence. Because Ebola poses such an overwhelming threat to people living in the region, we decided to focus on Ebola."
Marcus McGilvray, HIV and Tropical Disease Nurse and CEO and Founder of WKU, who grew up in South Wales explains what the project aims to achieve: "In a youth friendly way and designed by the young people themselves, the comic strips will help to explain what Ebola is; how it's transmitted, how to take precautions, and why the need for careful treatment and isolation of patients. We want to help stop the spread of Ebola by giving people the correct facts and information about the virus – before fear and ignorance can take hold."
Haruna Mohammed, WKU Director in Ghana, praises the project: "The kids loved learning about Ebola and other health issues through the Comic Strip programme. Thank you Cardiff University."
Award-winning comic strip artist Stephen Marchant has produced a colourful booklet using the original drawings – available in English and French. The booklets are being distributed via streetfootballworld and FIFA Football For Hope members living in West Africa.
The project is made possible by funding from Cardiff University's School of English, Communication and Philosophy and fruit producers Blue Skiesin Accra, Ghana, who are helping to fund the printing and distribution of the booklet.
The facts contained in the booklet have kindly been authenticated by Professor David Mabey from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.