22 September 2000
Recognizing that malaria is often overlooked by the international community, Olympic athletes from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania are backing a global movement to tackle the malaria problem—Roll Back Malaria (RBM). Their support helps to raise awareness of the disease internationally and ensure that information about how best to prevent the disease is communicated to those affected.
Malaria, a preventable, but often fatal, disease, affects more than 90 countries in the world including most African countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Most adults in East, West and Southern Africa will have had the killer disease at some point in their lives. The disease kills more than one million people a year world-wide and more than 300 million fall sick with malaria. Pregnant women and children under five years of age are most at risk.
Many athletes taking part in the Sydney Olympics have not only had to face the same vigorous training programmes as other athletes, but they have also had to overcome the life-threatening disease. The athletes mentioned below have pledged their support for Roll Back Malaria. Here is what they have to say:
"Malaria is a fact of life for most African people, but it should not have to be. It interrupts daily life—keeping adults away from work, children away from school and sports people out of training—at worst, it is a killer. Malaria is endemic in Tanzania and one of the major killers in my country, especially in rural areas." —Restituta Joseph Kemi, Tanzanian Olympic Team Captain, 10,000 meter runner and malaria survivor.
"It is important, while the eyes of the world are on us, to remind everyone that malaria continues to blight the people of Africa. Roll Back Malaria needs more people from around the world to support its important work. The challenge of Olympic athletes is to take home medals. The challenge for many people is surviving malaria." —Fokasi Wilbroad Fullah, Tanzanian marathon runner and malaria survivor.
"As an athlete and malaria sufferer, I am pleased to endorse Roll Back Malaria. Malaria causes extreme poverty and it affects all people, regardless of their lifestyle." —Oumar Loum, Senegalese 200 meter sprinter and malaria survivor.
"Communities, governments and international bodies must work closely together and fight malaria to ensure a future for Africa’s youth." —Aida Diop, Senegalese sprinter and malaria survivor.
"Malaria is a real problem in Nigeria. More needs to be done to tackle it and save the lives of our children." —Mercy Nku, Nigerian sprinter.
"The fight against malaria must continue and increase. We should not have to accept this disease." —Tsegaselassie Aregawi, Ethiopian boxer and malaria survivor.
"The South African Olympic team gives its complete support for the Roll Back Malaria campaign at the Olympics.Malaria affects northern and border regions of our country and has a terrible impact on Africa as a whole. We are happy to use whatever influence we can during these Games to encourage people around the world to confront the issue." —Dan Moyo, Secretary General and Mission Chief for the National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA).
"South Africa is not affected by malaria in the same way as other African countries, but as African athletes we feel it is important to support Roll Back Malaria. We want to do whatever we can." —Alison Dare, South African hockey ace.
Roll Back Malaria was set up in 1998 by WHO and other partners—including United Nations agencies, governments, development banks, bilateral development agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society and individuals—at the request of African countries, as they searched for increased progress in malaria control. Olympic athletes are the latest to support the movement. After the Olympics, Roll Back Malaria plans to involve athletes in activities to mark the first Africa Malaria Day on 25 April 2001.
Roll Back Malaria seeks to increase the numbers of people with access to effective malaria interventions, improving both prevention and treatment and also supporting research into better drugs and a possible vaccine. It aims to halve malaria deaths by 2010. Malaria can be prevented by the use of mosquito nets or by taking anti-malarial drugs. You can find out more about getting involved in Roll Back Malaria by visiting the web site: http://www.rbm.who.int
Further information: National mission chiefs and athletes can be contacted through the team offices at the Sydney Olympic Village; main switchboard telephone number: +61 2 811 35222. Support for the RBM Olympic initiative has come from the mission chiefs of the National Olympic Committees for Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. Athletes supporting Roll Back Malaria include: Tsegaselassie Aregawi (Ethiopia); Bosede Kaffo and Mercy Nku (Nigeria); Oumar Loum and Aida Diop (Senegal); Llewellyn Herbert, John Laffne Dejager, Alison Dare, Charlene Woodstock, Clint Alfino and Okkert Birts (South Africa); Restituta Joseph Kemi and Fokasi Wilbroad Fullah (Tanzania). Information in South Africa can be obtained from Carrie Hulme, Arcay Corporate Communications; Telephone: +27 11 480 8757.
For more information on the WHO Roll Back Malaria programme, please contact Mr Gregory Hartl, WHO Spokesperson; Telephone: +41 22 791 4458, Mobile: +41 79 203 6715, Fax: +41 22 791 4858, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Roll Back Malaria Media Officer, Mr Andy Seale; Mobile: +41 79 217 3476; Telephone in Geneva: +41 22 791 3670, E-mail: email@example.com All WHO press releases, fact sheets and features, as well as other information on the subject, can be found on Internet on the WHO web site: http://www.who.int