Big news! Nothing But Nets is uniting with our global malaria partners to build buzz about malaria prevention in the lead-up to World Cup 2010 in South Africa — the first time the World Cup will play out on the continent of Africa. So we’re using this milestone to kick up awareness and show people how easily they can join the fight against malaria in a new partnership called United Against Malaria.
Many of you already know that malaria is preventable and treatable. In fact, in the 90 minutes it takes to play a soccer match, we can save 180 people who would otherwise die from this disease.
That’s why we at the United Nations Foundation and Nothing But Nets joined other leading malaria organizations such as Malaria No More, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Roll Back Malaria, and PSI in United Against Malaria, which launched in New York and Ethiopia earlier this month.
The new partnership also unites soccer stars, governments, corporations, and people like you in the global fight against malaria. By acting now, we can achieve our goal of bed net coverage by the end of 2010. And in the words of Awa Coll-Seck of Roll Back Malaria — we will use “futbol fever to end malaria fever!”
We certainly had the fever the morning of the launch in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The energy in the room was contagious. I scribbled notes furiously during the “Breakfast of Champions” to try to capture all the remarks from the impressive panel of speakers. While I am sure I did not catch it all, I was struck by Michel Kazatchkine, the Executive Director of the Global Fund, who showed how far we’ve come in the past five years in the effort to combat malaria.
Case in point: The Global Fund alone funded the distribution of 100 million bed nets worldwide. Dr. Kazatchkine expressed his hope — or perhaps his expectation — that by the next World Cup in 2014, we will be on the cusp of ending malaria deaths. The room erupted in applause.
But nothing excited the guests more than watching 12-year-old Charles, the youth spokesperson for United Against Malaria, answer questions from Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health.
Charles confidently proclaimed that when he grows up, he wants to be a champion. In many respects he already is. He’s the top under-12 football/soccer scorer in his native Uganda. But he’s also a malaria survivor. So when Charles travels around the world for United Against Malaria — from Addis Ababa, to New York City, to Brussels, and finally, to South Africa — he represents the millions of children we can save, and carries a message of hope that we can beat malaria.
I think UN Deputy Secretary-General Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, a native of Tanzania, said it best when we visited her later that day: “We can beat malaria only as we play football — as a team.”
Many of you have already joined the movement to send nets and save lives. We thank you for your support and ask your help in continuing the momentum. After all, the World Cup is only seven months away. We have a lot to do before then. So stay tuned for updates on United Against Malaria as we gear up for the game. We’ll have plenty of ways for you to join the winning team and beat malaria through your work with the UN Foundation and Nothing But Nets.
It just takes our collective efforts, coming together to unite against malaria. Together, we can join the winning team and kick malaria for good!