By Emmanuel Fiagby in Accra, January 23, 2012, Voices for a Malaria-Free Future
The United Against Malaria (UAM) Partnership in Ghana being led by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Program Voices for a Malaria-free Future project, the National Malaria Control Program and the Ghana Football Association held a special media event in Accra as a prelude to Ghanaâ€™s attempt to win the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2012 tournament currently taking place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. In the photo to the right we see Ghanaâ€™s NMCP Manager launching the UAM Malaria-Safe Playbook.
Held under the theme, â€œPartnership for Malaria Elimination – Winning the Africa Cup of Nations – AFCON 2012 and the fight to eliminate malaria,â€ the event brought together about 70 personalities representing 15 News papers, 6 Television stations/channels, 6 Radio stations, the National Sports Authority, the Ghana Football Association, the NMCP, WHO, USAID/PMI/CDC, Ministry of Information, Private Sector companies, academia and the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Malaria.
In introducing the event, the Country Director of the Johns Hopkins University Voices Project Emmanuel Fiagbey reminded participants of the significance of tapping in to the enthusiasm and support for the national team the Black Stars to win the AFCON 2012 to promote greater advocacy for eliminating malaria from Ghana. â€œWhile football is the most popular sports in Ghana, malaria is the most popular killer, we need to employ the positive popularity of football to defeat the negative popularity of malaria,â€ he remarked.
In a statement to the event, Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi, President of the Ghana Football Association reminded the audience and press members (seen in photo) that footballers are not immune to malaria. Malaria, he pointed out is a big threat to footballers and the practice of their profession. â€œAside that we also think society has invested in us and we need to give back what society has invested in us. That is why we have decided to use the Ghana Football Association and football as a vehicle to disseminate information on malaria prevention and treatment,â€ he stated.
Presenting the key note address, Prof Fred Binka, a renowned Malariologist and Dean of the School of Public Health of the University of Ghana called on all stakeholders especially communities, civil society leaders and groups, NGOs, the media, local government agencies and development partners to ensure strict adherence to the use of ACTs in treating malaria. â€œThe support of these groups will equally be crucial in lifting our education programs up two or more notches to encourage the use of LLINs by all Ghanaians in particular our children and pregnant women,â€ he emphasized.
With regards to funding challenges, Prof. Binka lamented the suspension of Global Fund Round 11 grants and opined that this could lead to loss of the gains so far made and malaria could be back with a heavy toll on especially children and pregnant women. He called for new partnerships from oil producing countries (OPEC) such as Saudi Arabia and new economic giants such as China to increase their resource support for malaria control and elimination in endemic countries.
Prof. Binka further stressed that the control and elimination of malaria will involve the contribution of every sector â€“ from local government, education, employment and social welfare as well as private companies to the Ministry of Finance. â€œNo sector can be excluded. Indeed we need a strong partnership with global initiatives, privately financed public sector projects, industry partnerships, local, regional and national partnerships led by civil society,â€ he accentuated.
In conclusion, Prof Binka hoped that the opportunity of the AFCON 2012, contest will energize several potential partners to accelerate their efforts to fight malaria by creating workplace malaria control policies and programs such as provision of treated bed nets and treatment services to their employees and dependants and adopting villages and whole districts within their catchment areas, working with them to reduce mosquito density and providing them with treatment and prevention services.
In launching a set of UAM branded malaria advocacy materials developed by the JHU/CCP/Voices project in partnership with the Ghana Football Association, Dr. Constance Bart-Plange, Manager of the National Malaria Control Program called on the Private SectorÂ companies to ensure the application of the Malaria-Safe Pillars of increased and continuing education, adherence to improved protection practices, greater visibility of efforts in order to attract added resources and promote effective advocacy. She charged the private companies in particular to endeavour to apply the 13 Winning Moves prescribed in the Winning Moves Chart, one of the materials launched. Other materials outdoored at the event included the 2012 edition of the GOAL Malaria Newspaper and the Malaria Safe Play Book â€“ a Resource Guide for private companies.
In her concluding remarks, the Ag. Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Gloria Quansah Asare who chaired the event called on all malaria program managers, specialists and activists to remain ever committed and creative in the presentation of malaria information to the public as demonstrated by the Voices UAM Partnership. â€œThe more efforts we put in the development and presentation of our health messages to our audiences the more successful we would be in making such messages acceptable and easy to adopt by our clientele, she emphasized.
About United Against Malaria: Founded in the leadâ€“up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, United Against Malaria is an alliance of football teams and heroes, celebrities, health and advocacy organizations, governments and corporations who have united together to end malaria deaths by 2015. We have the tools and the momentum. United, we can beat malaria.