By Mmabatho Khang
To keep the malaria fight alive and top of mind during the COVID-19 pandemic, World Cup-winning South African rugby captain Siya Kolisi and top female South African explorer Saray Khumalo have joined global athletes to take a stand behind the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign, to inspire awareness and action this World Mosquito Day (August 20).
Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, Siya and Saray are joined by renowned athletes from Africa and beyond, including Kenyan world-record-holding marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge, veteran international footballer Luis Figo, and founder of the first-ever Nigerian bobsled team Seun Adigun, to urge people to ‘see the bigger picture’ by tackling COVID-19 and malaria together to save more lives.
Malaria is one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases, transmitted by mosquitoes, which still kills an average of over 400,000 people annually – over 90 per cent of which happen in Africa. An estimated 228 million long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) were due to be delivered across Sub-Saharan Africa this year – more than ever before – but severe disruptions to life-saving net campaigns and limited access to antimalarial medicines as a result of COVID-19 could potentially result in a doubling of the number of malaria deaths in the region compared to 2018, according to recent modelling analyses by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Imperial College, London.
Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, says: “Malaria does not stop devastating lives during health emergencies and still kills a child every two minutes; indeed, experiences from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa show it can resurge in times of crisis with immediate and deadly consequences. COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in health systems around the world and, with lives at risk and resources increasingly stretched, long-term malaria investment alongside short-term COVID-19 response is essential, smart, and cost-effective.”
Emergency Response Campaign – The Bigger Picture
To shine a spotlight on the vital importance of sustaining malaria efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bigger Picture campaign, launching today, features Eliud Kipchoge, Siya Kolisi, Saray Khumalo, Luis Figo, andSeun Adigun.
The stars film themselves wearing a face mask whilst talking about the vital importance of tackling malaria and saving more lives during the pandemic, creating a striking image of both COVID-19 and malaria together – a visual representation of seeing the Bigger Picture.
South Africa’s World Cup winning Rugby Captain Siya Kolisi says: “It was so important to me that I lent my voice to the Zero Malaria campaign. Malaria is a huge problem on the continent, but it can be combated in my lifetime. It is for this reason that I am using my platform, in these times of uncertainty, to support the fight against this deadly disease, transforming the lives of Africa’s next generation.”
South African explorer Saray Khumalo, the first black African woman to reach the South Pole and summit Mount Everest, says: “I grew up experiencing malaria in DRC and Zambia, so I know how devastating this disease is. Ending malaria is a challenge, even more with COVID, but it is a surmountable challenge that we can rise to together. Let’s set our sights on reaching zero malaria!”
Kenyan athlete and Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s fastest marathon runner, says: “As a marathon runner, there’s nothing more important than keeping focus. As a father there is nothing more important than protecting my children. With the fight against COVID-19 the world has been united, as one. Let us stay focused not just to fight COVID-19, but to fight Malaria as well. Let’s continue the fight for Zero Malaria – because no human is limited.”
Veteran footballer Luis Figo, a champion of the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign, says: “Both COVID-19 and malaria are formidable opponents, and we must come together to tackle them at the same time and save more lives. As we fight COVID-19, we must not let our guard down against malaria, which strikes the poorest and the most vulnerable hardest. Zero malaria means no child should die unnecessarily from a preventable and treatable disease.”