"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)



"Sensitisation" is a French word for which there isn't a very good English equivalent. It refers to a public awareness campaign, usually having something to do with health or education or sanitation or democracy. "What we try to do is sensitize the public to the dangers of/need to...," my interview subjects say over and over again. I'd never heard the word until I interned in Cameroon, but it's an aspect of daily life in Goma.

As part of all this sensitisation, most of the decorations on the walls of offices and shops here involve sensitisation campaigns. It's an easy and efficient way to get information out, and all the international aid agencies (and many of the local ngo's as well) print posters, calendars, and booklets to distribute to the population. There are sensitasation posters about marking a ballot in an election, ending sexual violence, only drinking clean water, the importance of using a condom, all kinds of disease prevention efforts, and just about anything else of which you can think.

The above sign encourages parents to have children vaccinated against measles. It reads, "Dear parents: Measles kill. Let's vaccinate all of our children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years to protect them." As you can see, this vaccination/sensitisation campaign was sponsored by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, USAID, Rotary International, Japan, Belgium, Canada, and MONUC. I love the realism of this poster: yes, your child will cry, but it's worth it, because measles kill.


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