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By: Danielle Garrahan

Our World Cup Weekend in South Africa

June 14, 2017
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Part 1: Sunday, July 11
On Friday night, United Against Malaria hosted a reception for all of the partners to wrap up a great collaboration over the last year, ending with the World Cup final games this weekend. It was a great opportunity to meet the different partners, and hear about their involvement. A true highlight was listening to the stories of Kingsley Holgate’s expeditions up and down the rivers of Africa distributing bed nets.

From there we headed down to the concert. This was a truly proud night for malaria. Our malaria PSAs had the full attention of 12,000 people, who also heard personal stories from two soccer players and a passionate and beautiful presentation from South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka. It was great to see the United Against Malaria logo up on the screens throughout the concert – a fantastic tribute to how far this partnership has come. We also heard from singer Andrea Bocelli and a children’s choir.

On Saturday, we visited a clinic in a very poor part of Johannesburg. There weren’t many patients, but it was interesting to learn that women who visit the maternity ward have four hours after giving birth to pack up and leave.

After a visit to the apartheid museum today, we arrived at Soccer City. It’s truly hard to describe the atmosphere here: the vuvuzelas are as ubiquitous as they say! Everyone is either in red or orange, decked out in head to toe in their team’s colors. We’re so grateful to be a part of it all, and honored to represent the UN Foundation, Nothing But Nets™, and United Against Malaria.

Part 2: Monday, July 12
Wow. What can we say about this past year! Last night was the culmination of something truly special and unique. This was the first time such a sporting event has been held in Africa and it could not have been better.

For the game itself, Spain and the Netherlands both came out prepared. The first half was more of a chess match with each team just testing the waters. The Netherlands had a glorious chance to go in front but Arjen Robben missed one on one with the keeper. The second half was more wide open with both teams having chances at scoring. The crowd of 85,000 had to wait until the 118th minute to see Spain jump ahead with a brilliant goal from Andres Inesta. Spain was in ecstasy and the Dutch looked like they knew it was over. Then the final whistle and Spain went crazy. In the true spirit of the game, the Dutch fans (who were in great voice all night) and the players stayed around to witness the spectacle of the trophy handover. On a brisk evening in Jo’burg, everything went right. Thanks to South Africa for being a wonderful host. The world will not soon forget.

The South African United Against Malaria partners were tremendous hosts throughout the World Cup as well. A big thank you to them for all they did to make the last few days so special. One thing was made abundantly clear — this is just the beginning. Huge strides have been made this year all over the continent as football was leveraged as never before to highlight malaria. The African partners hope to double their efforts in the upcoming year. Partners came together a year ago “in the lead up to the World Cup” to highlight this important issue. It turns out that the World Cup was not the final milestone, but just a stepping stone to what can really be accomplished when we come together and join forces. Africa’s time is now, and it has the attention of the world that is needed to end malaria once and for all.

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