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  • Madagascar Handwashing Song: A collaboration between JOCV and a popular singer has been raising awareness of proper handwashing


May 28, 2020

Madagascar Handwashing Song: A collaboration between JOCV and a popular singer has been raising awareness of proper handwashing

photoChildren dance while singing the handwashing song: a screen capture from the music video

Madagascar is an island country on the east coast of the African continent. In this land far from Japan, the “Handwashing Song,” created through a collaboration between a JOCV (Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer) member and a popular local singer, has been sung over the years to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing. With a simple rhythm and easy-to-understand lyrics, Malagasy children learn how to wash their hands properly while enjoying singing the song.

photoThe Minister of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation, Voahary Rakotovelomanantsoa (center), advocating handwashing
(Source: Madagascar’s Ministry of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Facebook page)

The Minister of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation, Voahary Rakotovelomanantsoa, supported the production of this handwashing song. She is currently at the forefront of handwashing and education in Madagascar to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the time the song was created, Minister Rakotovelomanantsoa was a staff member of the volunteer team at the JICA Madagascar Office. She now appears on television every day and emphasizes the importance of proper handwashing to the public.

Learning the proper handwashing habits

♪Salama ny ankizy mazoto manasa tanana (Healthy children wash their hands well)
♪Sasao, sasao ny tananao! (Wash, wash your hands!)

The Madagascar handwashing song “Sasao ny tananao” was created in 2010. ICHINO Satomi, a JOCV who was engaged in community development in Madagascar at the time, was the original proposer. Ichino was assigned to a community health center located about three hours by bus from the capital. While dealing with disease prevention in rural areas, she realized that the people living there needed to recognize one of the simplest methods of disease prevention: handwashing with soap.

photoIchino teaching handwashing at an elementary school in Madagascar

To raise the awareness about the importance of handwashing, Ichino created a demo version of the handwashing song for children using a piano which she was good at. Its lyrics describe proper handwashing methods, the use of soap, and the appropriate times to wash hands. When the current Minister Rakotovelomanantsoa, who was in charge of volunteers at the JICA Madagascar Office, learned of Ichino’s initiative, she asked her acquaintance, a male singer, to perform it. Later, a DVD version was produced to further promote the handwashing song.

photoThe DVD jacket for the handwashing song music video. Lôla, a popular singer, is in the center

The Minister’s “acquaintance” who collaborated to produce the song was Lôla, a popular singer in the country. Minister Rakotovelomanantsoa, Lôla, and a choreographer collaborated to complete a dance that matches the lyrics of the handwashing song. Finally, a music video was created with local children singing and dancing to the song.

Ichino is currently dispatched to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Nagasaki University and is dealing with global health affairs. Looking back on the widespread acceptance of the handwashing song she created in Madagascar, she says, “I originally intended to do these activities only in the community where I was posted. But it became such a wonderful dance song, and it resulted in its popularity to spread throughout the entire country. That is amazing. It was Minister Rakotovelomanantsoa who passed down my wish I put into this song to the local people. I am filled with gratitude for everyone including local NGO staff members who thought up the lyrics together with me, the singer Lôla, and all other colleagues for their continuous support and efforts to produce the song.”

Steady efforts changed their mind

photoMalagasy elementary school students learn about handwashing

About a decade has now passed and the handwashing song has been sung at Madagascar's schools, and has become popular throughout the country. It may owe its popularity to the local Red Cross societies and Boy Scouts, being steadily engaged in activities to raise awareness of handwashing. These organizations utilize the handwashing song, together with paper picture-story shows that convey the necessity of handwashing. In addition, the song was broadcasted on national television and radio, and was authorized as the official handwashing awareness song by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation.

In rural Madagascar, it is not the norm for people to be able to twist open a faucet and water flows. For this reason, as a part of the efforts to raise awareness of handwashing, the TIPPY TAP has been introduced. This is a device that easily allows people to wash their hands by hanging up a plastic bottle containing water. It enables people to wash their hands, even in schools without water stations. In addition, in the case that soap is not affordable, a method of washing hands using ash made from burning plants was also introduced.

This handwashing education program has been passed on to JOCV members working in Madagascar. TAKEMURA Yuya is one of them, who returned from Madagascar in February this year after completing his JOCV activities. At local elementary schools, he taught the children how to wash their hands by hand-play to the rhythm of this handwashing song.

Takemura, who is working as an elementary school teacher in Japan, said, "Not only do the children learn the importance and the methods of handwashing, but it is also meaningful that this becomes habitual. This is precisely why the role of teachers who teach handwashing is so important now. I would like them to teach the children over and over to wash their hands."

photoTakemura (right) teaches children how to use a TIPPY TAP, a device allowing them to easily wash their hands by hanging a plastic bottle containing water

Minister Rakotovelomanantsoa struggles to raise awareness of handwashing

photoMinister Rakotovelomanantsoa (right) distributing masks
(Source: Madagascar’s Ministry of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Facebook page)

As of May 25, a total of 542 people (2 deaths) have been infected with the novel coronavirus in Madagascar. With the aim of preventing the spread of infection among the people, newly appointed Minister Rakotovelomanantsoa, who took office in January this year, has been traveling around the country every day to provide guidance on handwashing and to distribute masks directly to the people. She is also planning to use the handwashing song that she herself created, to further raise awareness of handwashing.

Looking back on the nine years working at JICA, Minister Rakotovelomanantsoa said, "This handwashing song video is a testament to the JOCV's activities. JOCV's efforts to improve the living environment in a sustainable manner, while being close to the local residents, has led to the way in which I am doing my own work today."

photoMembers of the JICA Madagascar Office paid a courtesy call on the newly appointed Minister Rakotovelomanantsoa (second from right) in January this year

She always places importance on visiting the residents, building relationships, and following up with them. JICA will continue to provide further cooperation for the improvement of the sanitation and water environment in Madagascar in line with her activities.


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