Ahead of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals draw, which took place in Durban, South Africa Wednesday evening, Malawi joined African footballers and heads of State in using football to fight Malaria.
Heads of State, including Liberiaâ€™s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Cote dâ€™Ivoireâ€™s Alassane Ouattara, Burkina Fasoâ€™s Blaise CompaorÃ© and Ugandaâ€™s Yoweri Museveni, have joined soccer icons Didier Drogba, Samuel Etoâ€™o and African Leaders Malaria Alliance (Alma) in lending their voices to the cause.
These notable figures are appearing in television spots, billboards and educational materials to be distributed across Africa, pledging to distribute life-saving malaria prevention and treatment messages during the continental football tournament.
â€œWe are part of the crusade to use football to defeat malaria in Africa. Malawi has suffered heavily from malaria as it is the number one killer disease, so we are happy to join the continent in this war against malaria.
â€œWe are using our own football stars and also coach Kinnah Phiri to disseminate malaria messages,â€ said FAM chief executive officer Suzgo Nyirenda.
Although preventable and treatable, malaria kills a child in Africa every 60 seconds and costs the continent an estimated $12 billion in lost productivity and health-care costs each year, according to the United Nations.
â€œAcross the continent, football dominates the hearts and minds of children and parents alike. But, so does malaria, the cause of 174 million illnesses and nearly 600 000 deaths in Africa alone every year,â€ said Cameroonian Etoâ€™o who is the United Against Malaria champion in a TV message to be broadcast in 30 countries in Africa on October 23.
â€œI have been a victim of malaria and I have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects it can have on individuals and families,â€ said Drogba, another UAM champion.
The campaign started during the tournamentâ€™s qualifying games a fortnight ago.
â€œWhen we all fight malaria together, we build a stronger nation and save lives,â€ said Sirleaf in a televised speech.
â€œAs a football fan myself, I understand the gameâ€™s power and popularity. We have the tools to win against malaria and I urge others to join us in the fight.â€
In Nigeria, Malawi, Benin, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and other countries, malaria messages will be shared using football players, favourite teams and sports programmes.