Jen Orkis reports that public health leaders and football players came together in Kampala recently to launch United Against Malaria efforts will use the 2010 World Cup as a focal point for raising awareness and funds for the fight against malaria. Jen explains that, “By leveraging football/soccer, one of the most popular sports in the world, UAM aims to raise global awareness and renew worldwide commitment to ending malaria, as well as increase the use of prevention tools and malaria treatment in Africa.”
Gabrielle Fitzgerald of Gates also described the “kick-off of Ugandaâ€™s United Against Malaria campaign – a coalition of local business, football and non-governmental organizations who have come together to raise awareness about malaria” on One‘s Website. She quoted Edgar Watson, CEO Federation of Uganda Football Association, as saying …
Football is a game that is so dear to my heart. It therefore gives me so much joy to see that the United Against Malaria campaign is using the football platform to fight malaria. I pledge to hold the football torch, as we, the coaches and footballers in Uganda all rally behind United Against Malaria. I do this for the children and for the future.
The launching represented a waide partnership including both public and private sectors. For example, the Monitor reported on the involvement of a key mobile phone network: “MTN, the official sponsors of the 2010 World Cup recognise that kicking malaria out of Uganda is not a fight one organisation can win. They are partnering with the consortium to raise awareness and help fight kick out malaria by 2010.”
From the public side Dr. Steven Mallinga, Minister for Health, used the occasion to raise awareness and was reported in the Monitor as saying, “Malaria is the leading cause of absenteeism from work and school due to the several bouts a person may suffer. He advised people to seek treatment within 24 hours of on onset of symptoms. He also encouraged people to sleep in mosquito nets and pregnant women to take the recommended malaria dose.”
UAM is looking for action now as well as sustained effort into the future. “Footballers, non-governmental organizations, foundations, governments, corporations and people like you who have joined forces ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to unite in the fight against malaria. By acting now,Â we can achieve unprecedented increases inÂ mosquito net coverageÂ across AfricaÂ to save millions of lives by the next World Cup inÂ 2014.”
What is encouraging from the above quote is that is shows UAM is not here just for show, capitalizing on one fleeting event in 2010, the year when RBM coverage targets should be achieved. They also recognize that sustained effort is needed – getting people to use their nets regularly – to turn the coverage targets into reduced morbidity and mortality in the long run.