Ahead of the official draw for the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), African football stars and heads of state have joined United Against Malaria (UAM), pledging to distribute life-saving malaria prevention and treatment messages throughout the tournament.
Top footballers – Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and Steven Pienaar – along with African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) heads of state – including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda – will lend their voices to the cause, appearing in television spots, billboards and educational materials that will be distributed across Africa.
“Across the continent, football dominates the hearts and minds of children and parents alike. But, so does malaria – the cause of 174 million illnesses and nearly 600,000 deaths in Africa alone every year. . “We have united to utilize the power of football to fight malaria and we hope our fans will join us,” said Samuel Eto’o, Cameroonian national team player and UAM champion.
Although preventable and treatable, malaria kills a child in Africa every 60 seconds and costs the continent an estimated minimum of US $12 billion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year.
“I have been a victim of malaria and have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects it can have on individuals and families. We need malaria out of the game. Using the popularity of football to increase awareness of prevention and treatment methods will go a long way in the fight to show malaria the red card,” said Didier Drogba, Côte d’Ivoire national team captain and UAM champion.
By leveraging the popularity and excitement surrounding Africa’s signature tournament, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and UAM are partnering to disseminate life-saving malaria messages through television and radio spots, in-stadium branding and local outreach to policy-makers and millions of fans across the continent.
“Malaria affects nearly everyone on the continent of Africa, including footballers and government leaders. With all eyes on the tournament and its participants, CAF and UAM are committed to utilizing this platform to communicate important messaging to end deaths from this devastating disease,” said Mr. Hicham El Amrani, secretary general of CAF.
Activities kicked off during tournament qualifying matches as President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf surprised football fans at the friendly game between Liberia and Ghana to cheer on her national team and congratulate them for their efforts to fight malaria. “When we all fight malaria together, we build stronger nations and save lives,” said President Ellen Johnson.
In Nigeria, Malawi, Benin, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and other countries, malaria messages will be shared using football players, favorite teams and sports programs.
Research has shown that audiences retain and act on these messages more often when delivered by their football heroes. In those countries, billboards, sports journals, tournament programs will complement the PSAs on air to ensure the UAM campaign messages reach every household. In Cote d’Ivoire, images of Drogba and his teammates Kolo Toure, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou attract readers to malaria educational materials, and create excitement about ridding this West African country of the burden of malaria. The UAM campaign has broken language barriers by having PSAs recorded by football stars in over 18 African languages since the campaign was launched in 2009.
“I am honored to be a champion for this cause. “It is unacceptable that malaria kills one child in Africa every minute. We can take such simple steps to prevent and treat this disease. United we can beat malaria,” said Steven Pienaar, UAM champion and former South African captain.
Malaria, the disease caused by parasites transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, can lead to coma and death if left untreated. Although malaria is preventable and treatable, it continues to kill a child every 60 seconds and 655,000 people globally each year, with more than 90 percent of the deaths occurring in Africa, and the majority of them being among children under the age of five.
UAM is a partnership of football teams and heroes, celebrities, health and advocacy organizations, governments, corporations, and individuals who have united to win the fight against malaria with the goal being to galvanize partners throughout the world to reach the international target of reducing deaths worldwide.
The Orange Africa Cup of Nations is the continent’s premiere football championship, organized biannually by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The 2013 tournament, hosted in conjunction with the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of the South African Football Association (SAFA) will take place from January 19 to February 10 and be followed by millions of fans in Africa and around the world.
ALMA is a 46-member alliance of African heads of state and government working to end malaria. For more information, please visit .