Inspired by the FIFA World Cup™ in Africa, United Against Malaria Brings Together Soccer Stars, Policy Makers, Celebrities, Corporations, Faith Leaders and Students in a Series of Events to Help Reach the United Nations Target of Universal Access to Mosquito Nets and Malaria Medicine in Africa by the End of 2010

WASHINGTONApril 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The world's most popular sport, soccer, could become the driving force in the fight against malaria 2010.  In the lead up to World Malaria Day 2010, United Against Malaria (UAM), a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported partnership of soccer teams, celebrities, global health organizations, governments, corporations and public citizens, is harnessing the power of soccer to unite the malaria community across the globe.  As communities around the world rally behind their favorite teams, ahead of this summer's FIFA World Cup™ finals, which will be played on African soil for the first time, global soccer stars and their federations are inspiring a unique team of health, social and corporate champions to join them in the UAM campaign and score the ultimate goal – eliminating malaria deaths by 2015.  The first critical step is reaching the United Nations target of universal access to mosquito nets and malaria medicine in Africa by the end of 2010.

"With the World Cup in Africa, it's a perfect time to use the most beloved sport to draw attention to one of the most dreaded ailments on the continent - malaria,"  said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Interim Director of the Global Health Policy and Advocacy team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  "We see tremendous progress being made in the fight against this disease and are proud to be part of the team looking to close the chapter on malaria in Africa."  

Over the coming days, UAM champions will be leading the charge with events taking place in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, NigeriaSouth AfricaTanzaniaZambia and throughout the U.S., with UK announcements to come later this month.  Many of these events will galvanize the power of soccer to raise awareness and drive action against malaria.  In key donor countries such as the U.S. and the UK, events will also engage political and faith-based organizations to further support the UAM objectives to mark World Malaria Day.  Across multiple continents, the message will be clear: concentrated malaria control efforts are working; now more than ever, continued support for malaria prevention and treatment, outreach and programming will be the key to eliminating the disease once and for all.

"No other cause in the world offers individuals the chance to help save lives or improve livelihoods on the same scale," said Ray Chambers, United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy for Malaria and UAM champion. "UAM is unique in partnering with professional soccer players who are heroes across Africa and can use their star power and influence to move the needle on malaria control efforts.  We have the tools and the ability, we just need the will of a determined team.  Combating malaria is a fight the global community can win by working together."  

To help turn the tide on this disease, the national soccer associations of Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, EthiopiaGhana, Mali,TanzaniaUganda and Zambia, as well as Ireland and the U.S., have all committed to the campaign. Soccer stars including Kolo Toure (Cote d'Ivoire), Landon Donovan (U.S.) and Michael Essien (Ghana) have joined leading health experts and celebrities to add their voices through filming public service announcements (PSAs).  

"Ordinarily, elimination is a word that no professional soccer player likes to hear," said Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy/U.S. Men's National Team star and a UAM champion.  "But when it comes to malaria, it's the most worthwhile goal there is.  As professional athletes, we understand the importance of putting together a team that has diversity in skill, but unity in a common goal.  United, we can defeat malaria."

With malaria-associated expenses costing the African economy an estimated $12 billion per year, the need for corporate leadership is paramount.  Many African companies are grappling with the challenge of protecting their employees and their families from the ravages of the disease.   A number of them have partnered with the UAM campaign, using the opportunity of World Malaria Day to announce new initiatives to help tackle the disease acrossAfrica.  One such initiative led by Nando's Restaurants is the development of a campaign bracelet which raises funds for malaria projects in Africa as well as provides employment opportunities to poor communities in South Africa.

There is proof that concentrated malaria control efforts are working.  With simple tools such as mosquito nets, effective medicines and safe indoor spraying, African countries such as EritreaRwanda and Zambia have reduced malaria deaths by more than 50 percent.  But continued support from donors and endemic countries is crucial to help Africa meet the UN goal of ending malaria deaths by 2015.

UAM World Malaria Day Activities across the U.S.

  • Congressional Initiatives – April 20, PSI Ambassador and UAM Champion Molly Sims will join young soccer players and other champions on Capitol Hill to present tens of thousands of signatures urging continued U.S. support for malaria efforts, followed by an evening Congressional Reception celebrating the tremendous impact of U.S. investments in malaria control
  • The Sleep Out to End Malaria – April 24, UAM is coordinating with universities and campuses across the country to sleep out in symbolic gesture of commitment to the global fight against malaria
  • Youth Tournaments – UAM is joining with eight youth tournaments across the nation this spring to increase malaria awareness with young soccer players and their families
  • Major League Soccer (MLS) Title Nights – the UN Foundation's Nothing But Nets™ campaign, on behalf of UAM, is partnering with MLS to host activities at soccer matches across the country from spring through summer, to increase awareness about malaria

UAM World Malaria Day Activities across Africa

  • Cote d'Ivoire – launched UAM-sponsored billboard and TV PSA campaign and hosted private sector UAM partners dinner
  • Ghana – UAM event in central Accra with national federation and net distribution
  • Mali – UAM-sponsored soccer cup championships in 8 districts and national UAM cup
  • Mozambique – UAM PSA campaign and net distribution
  • Nigeria – malaria roundtable with private sector and former national team footballers
  • South Africa – announcements from corporate partners on commitments to tackling malaria, launch of UAM bracelet campaign, UAM-expedition starts delivering nets in a number of countries
  • Tanzania – launching Malaria Haikubaliki Junior Cup and training for sports media
  • Zambia – UAM-sponsored soccer matches and net distribution
  • Uganda – UAM-sponsored soccer matches and net distribution
  • UAM Resource Guide – a collection of existing resources and best practices from key players in the fight against malaria

UAM Soccer Stars/Federations

  • Soccer Stars - Landon DonovanMichael EssienSalomon KalouFrederique KanouteSeydou KeitaRoger MillaKolo Toure
  • National Federations/Associations - Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, EthiopiaGhanaIreland, Mali, TanzaniaUganda, U.S., Zambia
  • Teams – Ghana Black Stars, Mali Aigles, Tanzania Taifa Stars, Zambia's Chipolopolo Boys, the Ugandan Cranes, the U.S. and Irish National teams, and club teams Anderlecht and FC Barcelona
  • Dignitaries - Sepp BlatterDon GarberIrvin KhozaJoan Laporta

UAM Corporations

Anglo Gold Ashanti, Azalai Hotels, CECI, Coca-Cola, East African Breweries Ltd. Uganda, Exxon, KCB, Kampala Pharmaceuticals Industry, Kampala Serena, Manzi water, MNet, MTN, MTNCI, Nando's Restaurants, Net Shoppe, Nikon, Novartis, Orange-Mali, Pfizer, Radio One, SAPH, SIFCA, SITAB, SOTRA, Sheraton Kampala, Standard Bank, SSB Flour, Sumitomo, SuperSport, Total, Toyota Uganda, Vestergaard Frandsen, Zambeef

Additional UAM Supporters

Bono, Robert Brozin, Yvonne Chaka ChakaRaymond G. ChambersPeter Chernin, Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Melinda French GatesSunil GulatiPhilippe HuberAshley Judd, Michel D. Kazatchkine, Andrea KerznerJohann Olav Koss,Anna KournikovaMandy Moore, Youssou N'Dour, Phuthuma Nhleko, David O'Connor, Rick ReillyMolly SimsAnant SinghDavid SternbergDiana TaylorR.E. Turner, Daniel Vasella, M.D., Mikkel Vestergaard FrandsenAbby WambachCasey WassermanKeisha Nash Whitaker

About Malaria

Malaria is a disease caused by parasites of the Plasmodium species. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The parasite enters the bloodstream and causes fever, headaches and other flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, the infection in its most severe forms can lead to a coma and death.

Malaria disproportionately affects the poor, particularly children and pregnant women on the African continent who are more likely to be exposed to infection and have the most limited access to malaria prevention, treatment, and control measures.  Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds and overall nearly one million people each year.  In addition to the death toll, malaria contributes to the cycle of poverty and limits economic development: Malaria illness and death cost Africa at least $12 billion in lost productivity every year.

About United Against Malaria

United Against Malaria is a partnership of soccer teams and heroes, celebrities, health and advocacy organizations, governments, corporations, and people like you who have united ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to win the fight against malaria. Our goal is to galvanize partners throughout the world to reach the United Nations target of universal access to mosquito nets and malaria medicine in Africa by the end of 2010, a crucial first step to reaching the international target of reducing deaths to near zero by 2015.

Founding partners include Comic Relief, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Malaria No More, ONE, PATH, PSI (Population Services International), the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria.

This article was published on 19 April 2010 by PR Newswire.