We Together: Street Art for Safe Migration and Solidarity during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted: 
06/09/20
Themes: 
COVID-19

Accra – Giant fingers rendered in rainbow hues flash out a message as motorists rush by on a freeway here in one of Africa’s busiest capitals. Smiling children grin back, saying nothing.

They can’t. They’re painted on a wall.

But no one here misses the point: We’re fighting a dangerous pandemic, and everyone must do his or her share. It’s street art with a compelling lesson to share.

This month the International Organization for Migration (IOM) joined the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Delegation of the European Union to Ghana to arm artists from the Ghana Graffiti collective with spray-paint cans and stencils, all to raise awareness for safe migration and COVID-19 solidarity.

In the Okaikwei North Municipal community in Accra, street artists painted a 20-meter long wall with messages of hope, reminders of COVID-19 preventive measures and calls for community support, above all for migrants who are particularly affected by the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.

“We have worked tirelessly over a period of 10 days on translating the COVID-19, safe migration and solidarity messages into a creative and colorful piece of street art that speaks to the people, especially the youth,” stated the Ghana Graffiti collective.

On one section of the mural, children of various backgrounds can be seen hugging each other with the word Love beautifully painted.

On another, a girl is seen wearing a facemask and other youths are pictured demonstrating COVID-19 barrier gestures such as handwashing and coughing in the elbow, powerful reminders of the individual role we each play in stopping the spread of the virus. Further, travelers with luggage can be seen in front of a world map, reminding us of the reality and humanity of migration.

“For decades Accra has been, and continues to be, a haven for migrants. Through street art we celebrate the diversity of our city while creating awareness on COVID-19,” said the Mayor of Accra, Honourable Mohammed Adjei Sowah.

As of 8 June, Ghana has counted 9,638 cases, 3,636 recoveries and 44 deaths. As part of its response to COVID-19 in Ghana, IOM is developing and supporting various awareness raising activities throughout the country. In Accra, the capital city where most coronavirus cases have been reported, street art was chosen, as it transcends cultures and creates bridges between people.

“These graffiti speak about hope, tolerance, love and solidarity. In fact, solidarity is more important than ever now that the world is hit by the COVID-19 crisis. As the graffiti reminds us, each and every one of us is concerned by this pandemic,” said H. E. Ambassador Diana Acconcia, Head of the European Union Delegation to Ghana.

However, for many people, including domestic and international migrants living in crowded slums, access to clean running water or the possibility to maintain social distance, is a challenge. Working closely with its sister UN agencies to support the government in its COVID-19 response and recovery plans, IOM is focusing its efforts on ensuring that migrants and migration issues are fully included in the actions.

The pandemic is likely to negatively impact livelihoods and wellbeing of migrants and returnees, but also of people in vulnerable employment in the informal sector, as well as of households relying on remittances from abroad. In these circumstances, many, especially young people, may turn to migration. This may fuel irregular migration but also migrant exploitation and abuse, including smuggling and human trafficking.

“The pandemic is going to exacerbate existing migration dynamics. Some people are going to lose their jobs and many may decide to move from rural areas to urban centers like Accra or from Ghana to the subregion or beyond, looking for greener pastures. So even in the midst of the immediate COVID-19 response, we need more than ever to actively continue our safe migration campaigns and to advocate for the response to leave no one behind, including migrants,” said Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, IOM Ghana Chief of Mission.

More street art interventions are planned with the team of artists in other locations across the country. It is also part of a larger street art project IOM is working on across West and Central Africa and involving to date five countries, namely Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger and Ghana.

The project has been made possible through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) which has assisted over 1,400 Ghanaians to return home since 2017.

For more information, please contact Juliane Reissig at IOM Ghana, Email: jreissig@iom.int

For more information on IOM’s regional response to COVID-19, please contact Florence Kim at IOM’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Email: fkim@iom.int

  • Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, IOM Ghana Chief of Mission, and the other dignitaries, left their mark on the art work 

  • Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, IOM Ghana Chief of Mission, and the other dignitaries, left their mark on the art work 

  • Sections of the mural showing solidary, safe migration and COVID-19 prevention messages. 

  • Sections of the mural showing solidary, safe migration and COVID-19 prevention messages. 

  • Sections of the mural showing solidary, safe migration and COVID-19 prevention messages.