Andy Murray and Lionel Messi join campaigns to combat malaria

malariaFamous sporting figures from around the world have offered their help in the battle against the potentially-deadly disease malaria.

Tennis star Andy Murray, who yesterday defeated Russian Mikhail Youzhny to reach the quarter finals of Wimbledon, has lent his support to charity Malaria No More UK.

Since their inception in 2009, Malaria No More UK have successfully pushed the coalition government to guarantee malaria is one of the key factors of its international development agenda and have secured a major coup in getting Andy Murray on board for their ‘Be The Net’ campaign – an interactive digital campaign to raise awareness about fighting the disease.

Murray, 26, spoke about malaria to the Huffington Post, saying: “In the past year I’ve won some of the biggest matches of my career but I’m still striving for the world to win the fight against malaria. Every minute a child dies unnecessarily from this disease, yet it is easy to prevent and costs less than a pack of tennis balls to treat. Be The Net is an easy way for us to come together and show our support for this winnable fight, something I am proud to support”.

Members of the public are able to insert their face onto a virtual mosquito net via social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, or email and share the activity with their friends or family. Users can also develop their understanding about malaria and the huge challenges there are in combating the disease, in addition to being able email their local MP to show support in the UK’s help in battling malaria and decreasing the risks and deaths caused by it.

Arabella Gilchrist, Director of Communications for Malaria No More UK says: “This campaign is all about getting the public involved and empowered in a democratic movement to fight malaria – one of the best humanitarian investments on the planet. Andy’s the perfect fit for this campaign, he’s tenacious and persistentBe The Net promotes the message that united we can win.”

However the tennis superstar is not the only sporting figure who is united in fighting malaria. On Thursday 27th June, Barcelona and Argentina footballer and current FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi arrived for a humanitarian trip to the West African country Senegal.

Messi, 26, was there in conjunction with Qatari football academy ASPIRE Football Dreams to help promote mosquito nets for a new anti-malaria program.

The organisations new initiative – Football Combating Malaria – hopes to distribute an initial 400,000 medicated bed nets across 10 countries in Africa, but aims to have over 1,000,000 to people across the continent each year in the very near future. Nearly 1,000,000 people are thought to have cheated death over the past 12 years by sleeping under nets coated with insecticide.

Despite this, according to the World Health Organization, during 2010 malaria was still responsible for an estimated 660,000 deaths around the world.  The 660,000 deaths emanated from a staggering approximate 219 million cases of the disease, which is preventable and treatable through medicines such as Doxycycline, Malarone and Paludrine.

Around 91% of those fatalities occur in Africa, where most of the deaths are children under the age of 5. Tragically, about 180 children die because of malaria every 90 minutes – the same time duration as a football match.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Messi opened up about the plight of malaria, saying: “I am really delighted to come to Senegal. My commitment to be part of this battle against malaria is relentless. Whenever I have the opportunity to help, I will not hesitate. There is no doubt that I’ll co-operate with organisations involved in this initiative to trim out the pernicious effects of malaria.”

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