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Celebrities lend their voices to children's fight against malaria

Press release Roll Back Malaria Partnership

Photo: Dikembe Mutombo Foundation

International celebrities Dikembe Mutombo and Youssou N'Dour have added their voices to those of tens of thousands of children across Africa who are calling for increased awareness, more protection and better treatment for malaria, which kills 3000 children every day.

In the run-up to Africa Malaria Day, commemorated on 25 April of each year, children throughout Africa are engaging in children's parliaments, TV and radio commentaries, plays, and other creative activities to send a clear message to those who have it in their power to make a difference: adults, decision-makers, governments and donors. Their intention? To realize a child's dream of "a malaria-free future", the theme of this year's Africa Malaria Day.

"We are suffering a lot from malaria," says 13-year-old Efua Boateng, member of a church youth group in Ghana, "but I don't think the rest of the world understands. We need to let them know. We have to speak up on behalf of our younger brothers and sisters."

Dikembe Mutombo, New York Knicks basketball player, who comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is supporting their efforts by urging children to sleep under insecticide-treated mosquito nets. "Beating malaria is like winning at basketball," says Mutombo in a public-service announcement being broadcast Africa-wide. "You need to get to the net."

"It is estimated that malaria kills up to 2.7 million persons each year; 90% of these deaths occur in Africa affecting children under the age of five years.  Malaria is also the number one disease in my homeland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  In September 2000, I contracted malaria when I visited the Congo on a goodwill mission. I know from personal experience how devastating malaria can be, but I was treated when I returned to the United States.  Malaria is treatable, but not for most Africans. Malaria is a disease of poverty too and I am happy to be part of the global Roll Back Malaria campaign because we will be more effective in tackling malaria as a global community rather than as a set of individual nations and partners. I am pleased that governments from Africa and from around the world are working together on this problem."

Dikembe Mutombo,
New York Knicks basketball player

UNICEF goodwill ambassador and internationally acclaimed musician Youssou N'Dour will be recording a video announcement on malaria and headlining a concert in the Senegalese region of Matam, whose three-day event is the focus for this year's Africa Malaria Day commemorations. Senegalese officials including the First Lady, Mme Viviane Wade, and the Minister of Health will be joined in Matam by regional, local, and international partners in the fight against malaria, including Regional Directors of the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Malaria is by far the leading cause of death in Matam--hitting young children and pregnant women especially hard--but communities and health officials are working together to step up their fight against the disease. Matam is also the pilot region for an international schools-based project to promote healthy behaviours among children, including protection against malaria.

"Matam's challenges are Africa's challenges... and the world's," says Dr Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Secretary to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. "The changing face of malaria-- drug resistance, insecticide resistance, environmental shifts, epidemics--forces malaria programmes across Africa to continually adapt and reorient their efforts.

"Countries are introducing new tools, policies, and training to try to turn the tide of this devastating disease, but they need strong support from the international community," Coll-Seck added. "We must heed these children's voices and ensure that adequate resources are available to give them the future they deserve."

In response to the call by countries and their children the Roll Back Malaria Partnership is establishing a mechanism which will provide up-to-date information on manufacturers and prices of combination therapies among other essential products (diagnostic tests, insecticides, mosquito nets etc.) The "Malaria, Medicines and Supply Service " will also promote and monitor their quality, develop detailed forecasts of requirements to ensure that manufacturers scale-up production to meet demand, and broker pooling of procurement of these products to reduce cost.

Background on Roll Back Malaria

To provide a coordinated international approach to fighting malaria, the Roll Back Malaria Global Partnership (RBM) was launched in 1998 by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank. The Partnership's goal is to halve the global burden of malaria by 2010, with a particular focus on Africa.

The Partnership now includes governments of countries affected by malaria, bilateral and multilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and research groups, and has succeeded in raising global awareness of malaria, generating increased resources and achieving consensus on the tools and priority interventions required to control the disease.

25 April - Africa Malaria Day

On 25 April 2000, African leaders from 44 malaria-endemic countries met in Abuja, Nigeria for the first-ever African Summit on Malaria. At the Summit, they signed the historic Abuja Declaration, which commits governments to an intensive effort to halve the burden of malaria in Africa by 2010 and sets interim targets for the year 2005.

To highlight the gravity of the malaria situation on the continent—where 90% of malaria deaths occur—the Summit participants also declared 25 April of each year “Africa Malaria Day”.

Africa Malaria Day is commemorated by a variety of activities organized by a wide range of groups including governments, non-governmental organizations, schools and communities, in both malaria-endemic and industrialized countries. Previous activities have included parades, rallies, poster competitions for children, radio and television phone-in sessions, awards ceremonies honouring health workers and/or agencies, press conferences and letter-writing campaigns.

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For more information contact:

Pru Smith
Telephone: +41 22 791 4586

Melanie Zipperer
Telephone: (+41 22) 791 1344
Mobile phone: (+41) 79 477 1722

Minouche Alavo
Telephone: + 22 1 644 3322

Erin Trowbridge
Telephone: +1 212 326 7172

Stevan Jackson
Telephone: +1 202 437 6295

Flavienne Issembe
Telephone: +47 241 39352

Khalifa Mbengue
Telephone: +221 545 8381