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Health Officials Using World Cup to Fight Malaria


Health officials are using this year's World Cup in South Africa to help fight malaria.

Health officials are using music and football to boost awareness of preventing malaria, which kills one million Africans each year.

This radio message in Ghana from the group United Against Malaria reminds pregnant women to take their anti-malarial drugs and says all families should sleep under treated bed nets to kick malaria out of Africa.

Nine African football teams are involved in this campaign that hopes to use the excitement surrounding Africa's first World Cup to help reduce malaria deaths, 85 percent of which are children under five years of age.

Christina Vilupti Barrineau is the campaign manager for United Against Malaria. "This campaign is about using football as a catalyst to raise awareness about the disease and raise the awareness that each African can make a difference in ending this disease and footballers like Abedi Pele, like Michael Essien who are using their voices and names. We can reach out across Africa to create a movement that will end this terrible disease," said Barrineau.

Ghana's Football Association is a key partner in the campaign. When it comes to malaria, FA President Kwesi Nyantakyi says footballers are no different from anyone else. "We as managers of football have a huge responsibility to fight malaria otherwise malaria would fight and probably win the fight over us. There are several cases of key players in our clubs and national teams who have failed or have been unable feature in matches because of Malaria," he said.

Tanzanian Football Association chief Leodegar Tenga says the campaign underscores the importance of public health and its impact on the future of football.

"The beauty about football is the fans. You get to the stadium you see the fans, so you need the people to be healthy. Without a healthy public there is no way you could develop. In fact the very existence of football itself depends on how healthy the society is and most importantly, as far as I am concerned, as far as football is concerned and everybody is concerned, malaria unlike AIDS is treatable, preventable and can also be eradicated," he said.

The United Against Malaria campaign awarded Ghana FA President Nyantakyi its own Golden Boot for his personal contribution to fighting the disease. He is hoping it is not the only trophy he raises this year.

"The slogan for this campaign is "victory is in the net." Each time that a goal is scored it is a goal scored against malaria. So any time the Black Stars score a goal, we celebrate our victory against malaria. And the day the Black Stars would lift the prestigious World Cup trophy in South Africa on the 11th of July, we will all be celebrating a new nation against malaria," he said.

Along with hosts South Africa, Africa's first World Cup includes Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Algeria.

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