African football stars and heads of state will promote the Roll Back Malaria Partnership's United Against Malaria campaign throughout the 2013 Africa Nations Cup (Afcon) tournament, which kicks off in South Africa on 19 January.
The campaign will push life-saving malaria prevention and treatment messages throughout the Afcon tournament, with the help of footballing icons such as Didier Drogba, Smuel Eto'o and former Bafana Bafana skipper Steven Pienaar.
They will be joined by African heads of state who are members of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, Cote d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
The heads of state and the football stars will appear on television, billboards and educational materials that will be distributed across Africa.
90% of malaria deaths in Africa
Head of external relations for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, Herve Verhoosel, said this week that 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," Verhoosel said.
South African Football Association (Safa) presidnet Kirsten Nematandani said the Afcon tournament would 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.
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," Eto'o said.
Preventable and treatable
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."