Humanitarian groups have joined with African football players and major corporations to launch a new initiative aimed at combating malaria. The United Against Malaria Campaign made the announcement in Johannesburg to coincide with World Malaria Day on Sunday.
The Africa Director of United Against Malaria, Christina Barrineau, told reporters that the campaign aims to make malaria prevention and treatment available to every person on the African continent by the end of this year.
She said the ultimate goal was to eradicate malaria within five years. "Malaria is entirely treatable, entirely preventable and by achieving our 2010 targets we'll be saving the lives of millions and millions of children every year," said Barrineau.
Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted by a certain species of mosquito. It causes debilitating fevers and is the number one killer of children in Africa. Of the one million malaria deaths each year, 91 percent are in Africa.
Experts say malaria victims occupy 60 percent of available hospital beds on the continent and reduce economic productivity by $12 billion per year.
Founded last year, United Against Malaria, brought together dozens of humanitarian organizations and corporations as well as the national football (soccer) teams of Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Ireland and the United States.
The partnership is launching a bracelet made of African beads.
The bracelets will be sold for about $3.00 each. One dollar from each sale will be given to the Global Fund which raises money to combat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
The bracelets are handmade by more than 400 women living in impoverished neighborhoods in South Africa. They provide the women with an income of some $200 a month.
The South Africa-based restaurant chain, Nando's, created the concept and will sell the bracelets at its 1,000 outlets in Africa and around the world.
Spokesman Chris Thorpe said the goal is to sell one million bracelets by the end of the year. "It is the first time that Africa is now giving money back to the Global Fund. It's really our time to stand up now and give back," he said. "And from selling a million bracelets it means that we'll be able to raise a million dollars which means that we'll be able to buy in excess of about 100,000 [mosquito] nets."
The nets are distributed through humanitarian groups across the continent especially before the rains bring malaria season. They are accompanied by educational programs and distributed with rapid malaria diagnosis kits.
The communications giant, MTN, is also participating in the campaign and will offer the bracelets to its 10 million subscribers.
Senior manager Tshepo Ramodibe said the group hopes to use the upcoming football World Cup, being played for the first time on African soil, to broaden awareness of the disease and the way it can be prevented and treated. "Ours is really hoping that at the end we could say we have scored a goal against malaria, Africa one, malaria zero," he said.
Organizers say corporate partners have already bought 600,000 bracelets.
Various United Against Malaria campaigns are being launched in eight other African countries as well as in Britain and the United States to mark World Malaria Day on Sunday.