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Senegalese Singer Youssou N'Dour Gives Benefit Concert For Malaria

Senegalese singer and song-writer Youssou N'Dour and the United Nations have organized a major concert to raise funds to combat malaria, a disease that kills 3,000 children every day around the world. He will be joined by musicians from all regions of the world, including Peter Gabriel, Gilberto Gil of Brazil, Mali's Rokia Traore, Sweden's Neneh Cherry, American Patti Austin and Indonesia's Anggun.

Youssou N'Dour thinks music can be a powerful force for good. He says he has written a song about malaria that he hopes will rouse people to action.

"I believe in music," he said. "For me, music is a language. It is maybe the first language. We can use it to communicate faster, easier than the political message."

Youssou N'Dour's song is called "Roll Back Malaria", named after the anti-malaria program launched by the World Health Organization in 1998.

"My project is to make sure a lot of people are going to sing it in different languages, and make things happen," he explained.

The World Health Organization estimates the mosquito-borne disease strikes up to 500 million people a year, killing more than a million, most of them children under five. About 90 percent of these deaths occur in Africa.

Youssou N'Dour knows all about the disease. He comes from Senegal, a country where malaria is a constant problem. He says he has seen the debilitating effect of this disease on his people.

"If we think about dignity," said Youssou N'Dour. "People from north to east and south really want to have dignity, and with these problems, malaria problems, people cannot go to work, kids do not go to school, and it is about dignity and the impact of this problem to our economy."

The United Nations estimates malaria costs Africa $12 billion a year, holding back its economic and social development. It says it would cost $3 billion a year to control the disease. While malaria cannot be eliminated, it can be treated and controlled.

Youssou N'Dour says he supports the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goal of cutting the number of deaths from malaria in half by 2010. He says the concert in Geneva will kick off a worldwide awareness campaign that malaria kills, but can be beaten, if people take action. He says the campaign and the fight will be long.

"It is not about one day," he explained. "It is about a program, because if you really want to reduce the risks, or the impact of malaria, we have to exactly be clear, it is going to take some years, and it is going to take money."

Proceeds from the concert will be combined with $1 million by American actress Sharon Stone to fund a pilot project in Tanzania. The money will provide every family in two coastal areas with insecticide-treated bed nets, a proven method for helping to prevent the spread of malaria.