London, June 13 (ANI): Malaria charities are targeting the FIFA World Cup as a means of highlighting a disease that still claims a child's life every 30 seconds on the African continent.
When England took on the United States on the second day of the tournament last night, the United Against Malaria project kick started its own campaign to raise awareness in the hope of providing 150 million more mosquito nets by the end of the year.
A raft of top-class international footballers, including Kolo Toure of the Ivory Coast, have suffered from malaria and campaigners are using the month-long jamboree to focus attention on the impact of an illness that still has devastating consequences among Third World populations.
"What is so powerful about the World Cup is the sheer size of the global audience and the way in which football resonates across the whole continent," The Independent quoted Sarah Kline, executive director of the charity Malaria No More UK, as saying.
"The objective is to maximize exposure to a mass audience and to influence governments to prioritise spending on malaria, not least African countries," she added.
Football's world governing body, FIFA, has made great play of the fact that the World Cup is not just about South Africa but Africa as a whole.
Kline believes the continent's obsession with football is too good an opportunity to miss in terms of widening the debate on malaria prevention.
Whilst the death rate is declining in 38 countries, only eight of those are in Africa. Hence the involvement with UAM with a raft of commercial organisations, big and small, who have discovered the impact of malaria on their profits.
"Many countries like Rwanda and Ethiopia have made considerable progress," says Kline.
She added: "But other countries are less enthusiastic and there are still huge challenges in terms of both money and trained health workers. In the West people think malaria is something we have got rid of. There is also an assumption that there is easy access to medicine. Both these are wrong."
Estimates suggest that 350 million nets would be needed to achieve universal usage. (ANI)