Coronavirus: Muppets help children adjust to the pandemic in Arabic ‘Sesame Street’
Elmo, Basma, Jad and their other furry Muppet friends have also been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
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The Muppets are characters from ‘Ahlan Simsim’, the Arabic language version of the popular US children’s program ‘Open Sesame’.
For season two, the program shifted its content to focus on the effects of the pandemic on children, giving them tools on how to cope with the changing realities around them.
Some of the episodes consist of staged and real online video-calls, where muppets and guests come up with fun ways to entertain themselves while under quarantine.
“In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we felt it was very important to create special content for children that addresses their needs during these times,” said executive producer Khaled Haddad.
“There are many children that find it difficult to express their feelings. There are feelings of fear, feelings of anxiety, we would introduce children to these feelings and give them a way to deal with them,” he added.
‘Ahlan Simsim’ targets children aged three to eight, and its first two seasons so far reached a total of 3.5 million viewers across the Middle East.
Its main goal is to provide children, from both displaced and host communities, with access to educational entertainment programing.
“Coronavirus only makes this content all the more important because when children don’t have access to schools or formal learning, we’re able to reach them through media, through television broadcast, through mobile phones, through WhatsApp,” said Sherrie Westin, president of social impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind the shows.
Westin adds that the Workshop’s direct service response program, which along with the International Rescue Committee, facilitates visits and interaction with children in Syrian refugee camps, was suspended due to the pandemic.
To compensate, the program has increased its efforts to deliver content remotely.
The production of the show took preventive measures since the outbreak pandemic by limiting its on-site crew in the Jordanian capital, finding other creative ways to create new content.