Rwanda: Sherrie Silver On Personal Fight Against Malaria, New Projects

Rwandan-British dancer and actress Sherrie Silver is among a host of African stars who are up in arms against malaria, another epidemic which they say is being forgotten about due to the Covid-19 pandemic yet still kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

The stars and changemakers are coming together to inspire young people from across the African continent and the globe to call on their leaders at and push for political action to end malaria within a generation. The campaign launched exactly four months ahead of the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, being held on the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda on June 24.

The Summit is a milestone moment in the malaria fight and enabler of game-changing political decisions including delivering the commitment to halve malaria across the Commonwealth by 2023.

Silver, who has a soft spot for charity and humanitarian work, is part of the campaign dubbed, 'Draw the Line' campaign by the Zero Malaria Movement, which hopes to make malaria history by 2030.

For the Huye-born dance star, fighting malaria became a personal cause after-at the age of 9-she lost her cousin to the disease, pointing out that it is unacceptable that malaria still kills children globally in this day and age.

Ahead of the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases slated for June ahead of CHOGM, Silver talked to The New Times' Linda M. Mbabazi about the campaign and what she is up to lately. Excerpts below.

Briefly tell us about yourself, including something we may not know about you?

My name is Sherrie Silver. I am a choreographer, actress and lover of helping people and making a difference in the world. I'm also a UN IFAD advocate for rural youths. Something you may not know about me: I love God.

Tell us a bit about the 'Draw the Line' campaign?

The 'Draw the Line' campaign is very close to my heart. It is part of the Zero Malaria Movement, whose long-term goal is to eradicate malaria, hopefully by 2030. The campaign is also about getting all these young people to come together and to stand up against malaria and to finally say, "enough is enough: we are drawing the line against malaria." We've done this video where people are drawing lines, and there's a line running throughout the video that basically represents where we draw the line. And, for me, I think this is where we draw the line, especially at a time when we are in the middle of a global pandemic and there are now more deaths from malaria because people are scared to go to the hospital. They're afraid they will catch Covid-19 or be misdiagnosed and then isolated. So, with people being more scared than ever to seek medical attention, this is the time that we draw the line here, and find a way of ending this problem once and for all. We can do it and it is achievable.

How did you join the campaign?

I joined the campaign through my very good friend Ugo Mozie. He hit me up and told me he thought I'd be perfect for this campaign, because of how much I care about eradicating this disease. I think I was in Rwanda when he called me, and I flew to Nigeria to shoot the 'Draw the Line' campaign film. I met the team behind the campaign, and learned more about malaria and its impact on the continent.

What do you intend to achieve as part of the campaign?

Before I joined the campaign, I knew about malaria and knew people died from it, but I hadn't realised the scale. In terms of personal experience, when I was 9, my cousin Kayemba caught malaria and died in two days. And now, working with the Zero Malaria movement, I have learned that one child dies every two minutes from this disease and my cousin was one of these statistics. I don't want any more children to become a statistic. So how can I contribute: by joining a campaign that aims to eradicate malaria once and for all.

How is it like working with other African stars as changemakers?

For me, it's special because it shows that other people care about something that I really care about and it just shows the power in coming together: when we all come together, we can achieve. And, now, if you see us African stars coming together, imagine what can happen if the real stars -- the African people -- come together: we cannot fail to end this disease?

What demands do you have for the leaders under this campaign?

Our demands are to change the way that we are dealing with malaria. We need to take it more seriously. There are so many ways that this can be implemented. We need to dedicate more resources to the fight against malaria and increase awareness around prevention. Essentially, if we successfully reach the leaders with the campaign, we will reach the people.

Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic has led governments to forget other epidemics like malaria?

In 2018, world leaders committed to cutting malaria cases in half by 2023. But when the pandemic began and was so widespread, a lot of attention went away from other epidemics such as malaria, because Covid-19 is such a serious thing and has taken so many lives so quickly. What we really want to bear in mind is remembering that malaria is such a serious disease and 94 per cent of deaths are in Africa. Literally, a child is dying every 2 minutes. So even after Covid-19, we have to realize that we don't want to be in the same place we were back in 2018 when the initial commitment was made to halve malaria, because of the pandemic. So, I really would like leaders to stick to their commitment and I want to remind them of the importance of this and how much it affects our continent, despite everything else going on.

What have you been up to lately?

Lately, I have been shooting quite a few fashion campaigns which I'm very excited about (but I'm not allowed to talk about yet) and I've just shot a television commercial. I have also been working with an artist called Years & Years: I just choreographed their video for 'Starstruck', which now has over 2 million views on YouTube.

They just performed on some major television shows in the UK, and we'll also be doing more television in America soon! Thankfully, despite the pandemic, I have been busy doing commercials for Apple, Vodaphone, etc -- and I have been able to do it all on Zoom. And I have been teaching people how to dance and cook on my Instagram channel!

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