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12-year-old speaks out against malaria
11 November 2009 / 03:58

[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]

Deputy Secretary-General Attends Malaria Campaign Launch (Photo Credits: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe) Ugandan soccer player and malaria survivor Charles Ssali from Uganda was in New York on Tuesday as an Ambassador for the United Against Malaria! (UAM) campaign.

While at UNHQ, Charles, 12 years old, met with Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro with whom he played football for a little while, alongside a giant mosquito.

What made Charles so particularly suited to be an ambassador for UAM besides his experience with malaria: his love of football. “I love football, I hate malaria,” said Charles, which pretty much sums it up. “If you want to play football like me and win the World Gothia Youth Cup, sleep under mosquito nets to avoid suffering from malaria.”

United Against Malaria! is a joint initiative of  the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), launched in 1998 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank which includes NGOs such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and others.

  UAM aims at catalyzing football fans across the world to build support for the 2010 target of universal access to mosquito nets and malaria medicine in Africa.

Organizers note that “By acting now, we can achieve unprecedented increases in mosquito net coverage across Africa by 2010 and save millions of lives by the next World Cup in 2014.”

Goal 6 of the Millennium Development Goals is to “Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.”

Deputy Secretary-General Attends Malaria Campaign Launch (Photo Credits: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe) “Secretary-General BAN and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership have fixed some specific targets for 'Universal Coverage' at the end of 2010,” recalled DSG Migiro.

Charles Ssali suffered from malaria “as far as he can remember. […] That was in 2001 when I was 4 years old. Ever since then, my auntie always ensures that I sleep under a mosquito net.  As a member of Friends of Football, every six months, we are required to take anti-malaria tablets provided by the team.”

Although he is a little shy, Charles told iSeek: “it was not at all a problem for him to share his experience. That’s what I’m here for.”

During the event, Charles and the Deputy Secretary-General spoke, together with Robert Skinner from the UN Foundation and Hervé Verhoosel from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. On behalf of the Partnership and the Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria, a mosquito net was given to the DSG.

Charles was in Addis-Ababa on Sunday and will be in Brussels on Monday to spread the message at the European Parliament.  In the meantime, he told iSeek: “New York is great.”

More about Malaria

According to UAM, the disease kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds and nearly one million people each year.  Worldwide, 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria – that’s half of the world population.  91 percent of malaria deaths occur in Africa and 85 percent of these are children under five.  In addition to the death toll, malaria contributes to the cycle of poverty and limits economic development.  Malaria costs Africa at least $12 billion in lost productivity every year.  Finally, 40 percent of African health expenditures are on malaria alone.

However, the disease is preventable and treatable. “For $10 or £5 you can protect a mother and child for up to five years. Simple tools like mosquito nets, effective medicines and safe indoor spraying can save lives,” says UAM.