Potchefstroom — African football stars and Heads of State will join the Roll Back Malaria Partnership's United Against Malaria (UAM) campaign throughout the 2013 Africa Nations Cup (Afcon) tournament.
The campaign aims to distribute life-saving malaria prevention and treatment messages throughout the Afcon tournament by football icons such as Didier Drogba, Smuel Eto'o and Bafana Bafana former skipper, Steven Pienaar.
These football stars will embark on this campaign along with African Heads of State including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d'Ivoire and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.
Those Heads of State are members of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance and together with the football players they will lend their voices to the cause, appearing on television, billboards and educational materials that will be distributed across Africa.
Head of External Relations for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership Herve Verhoosel said they were thrilled to have malaria featured as a social cause of the 2013 Afcon tournament.
"The strong partnership between United Against Malaria and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) allows us to leverage the powerful platform of football to reach millions of fans across Africa, where approximately 90 percent of global malaria deaths occur - with life-saving messages to help protect communities from this preventable and treatable disease," said Verhoosel.
President of the South African Football Association (Safa) Kirsten Nematandani said the upcoming Afcon will build on the strong commitment and momentum of national federations and their players from the 2010 FIFA World Cup and move the continent closer to making malaria a problem of the past.
"We, the South African Football Association, are proud to support the United Against Malaria Campaign and globally the Roll Back Malaria Partnership in order to save lives across the continent," he said.
Cameroonian national team player, Eto'o said: "Across 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. We have united to utilise the power of football to fight malaria and we hope our fans will join us."
Although it is preventable and treatable, malaria continues to kill one child in Africa every 60 seconds and costs the continent an estimated minimum of US $12 billion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year.
Cote d'Ivoire national team skipper, Didier Drogba said: "I have been a victim of malaria and have witnessed the devastating effects it can have on individuals and families. Using the popularity of football to increase awareness of prevention and treatment methods will go a long way in the fight to show malaria the red card."
CAF Secretary-General Hicham El Amrani said: "Malaria affects nearly everyone on the African continent, including footballers and government leaders. With all eyes on the tournament and its participants, we are committed to utilising this platform to communicate important messaging to end deaths from this devastating disease."
Liberian President Sirleaf of Liberia said: "As a football fan myself, I understand the game's power and popularity. We have the tools to win against malaria and I urge others to join us in the fight."
Bafana former player Pienaar said: "I am honored to be a champion for this cause; it is unacceptable that malaria kills one child in Africa every minute. We can take such simple steps to prevent and treat this disease. United we can beat malaria." -SAnews.gov.za