Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All
Contribution to the Annual Report 2011 of the MMI Network

European people show their faces against Malaria!

(c) action medeor
(c) action medeor

The campaign STOP MALARIA NOW! including several members of the MMI Network ended in December of 2011. Two years of activities in Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and Kenya contributed to increase public awareness of malaria as a major health and development issue. But still there remains a lot to do in the fight against malaria. In the time it takes to read this introduction, a child will die from this preventable and curable disease. Malaria accounts for one death every 45 seconds. The vast majority of malaria deaths occur in Africa, south of the Sahara. But the disease means much more: Malaria is even a cause and a consequence of poverty. It has been estimated that malaria cost Africa more than US$ 12 billion every year in lost GDP and consume up to 25% of household incomes and 40% of government health spending. No doubt that it is time to “stop malaria, now.”

The European awareness-raising campaign STOP MALARIA NOW! took place between 2010 and 2011 in Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain for the second time. Two years ago it had first been carried out successfully among those countries. Thanks to the consistently deep collaboration among the seven project partner – which have been health and development NGOs from Germany, Italy, Kenya, Spain, and Poland, almost all of them members of the MMI Network – the campaign’s goal was achieved quite well: To increase public awareness of malaria related issues. Therefore, campaign activities targeted different groups, mainly supporting groups of civil society organizations, university students and youth groups as well as journalists, media professionals, national and EU decision-makers in the field of health and development. The innovative campaign approach of combining mass-communication, internet and personal-communication made a broad coverage of awareness promotion and mobilization activities possible.

STOP MALARIA NOW! achieved a broad media impact and succeeded in emphasizing the topic in all types of media, thanks to the creative and innovative ideas of all project partners. More than 150 press and online articles, radio and TV features have been initiated, new cooperation established and unusual audience reached. Highlights have been for example high visible publicity campaign adverts on buses and bus stops with images of a well-known football teams in Spain, or photo reportages in Italian and Spanish women magazines with more than 1.8 million readers each or the intensive cooperation with an Italian radio, which reaches up to 1 million people every day. The given liberty for implementing different media briefings in every country has gained a lot of advantages and results.

Organizing diverse events in a way represented the core of STOP MALARIA NOW!. More than 35.000 people were reached directly through 88 innovative awareness rising events. They included events to mark the World Malaria Day 2010 and 2011 as well as other events that were mostly associated with special anniversaries or lager events. Regard to this campaign tool all project partners proved to be extremely creative and innovative and made high efforts to popularize Malaria to the public at different occasions. Thus, the bandwidth of single and multi-day events ranged from traditional workshops, photo exhibits, seminars for students, thematic movie nights and information booths at church conventions, sports or music events, up to innovative flash mobs, street theatres performances, a story teller marathon and the installation of a huge mosquito net over a central pedestrian zones. Another key component of STOP MALARIA NOW! was a five-month exhibition and mobilizing tour through 14 cities in Europe. The exhibition strengthened established linkages among the project partner in the different countries.

Furthermore, the campaign succeeded to actively engage youth volunteers and students in malaria awareness promotion. After a small contest 13 young people with most different abilities and national backgrounds have been chosen to travel to Kenya for shooting a documentary about Malaria. Some of them are students from Italy, Germany, Poland or Spain. Others are living in Kenya in one of the biggest slums of Nairobi or are students at the Kampala University in Uganda. During the shooting they gained insight in beliefs, in everyday life in Africa and especially in, how people master their life with malaria. The documentary named “Insight Malaria” has been broadcasted on several occasions in Europe and Africa. This first hand experiences promoted intercultural learning among the participants.

“It was a great experience to live and work together with young people from different countries and continents. In Kenya, I realized how poverty can influence your life in a very unfair way. Malaria impoverishes your quality of life and limits you physically. We must be aware that also that if we in Europe don´t do anything, we prevent the prosperity of millions of people in African countries. And where is the government? Where is Europe? Where is the Church? This I was asking often myself during the shooting. I still do not have the right answer, but I'm sure that we should do something. European people have to become more conscious about the situation, because the worst thing is to be indifferent to other people. It is the time to take action and push for a change to a malaria-free world. However, Malaria is a curable disease which you can help fighting!” (A young Spanish filmmaker)

Another focus of the campaign was advocacy work. More than 5,000 campaign supporter across the globe showed ‘their face against malaria’ and seek to change the status quo towards a malaria-free world. At the end of the campaign the collected faces have been passed to relevant EU decision makers in form of a photo mosaic to call for increased European action for malaria control.

Moreover, STOP MALARIA NOW! did lobbying to politicians and parliamentarians through events and by letters. But due to present political and financial situation in the European Union doing lobby work for the neglected and poverty related diseases Malaria was not always easy. Despite progress, the malaria-related targets were still not reached. 216 million cases of malaria were reported and 655.000 people died of malaria worldwide in 2010 compared to about one million in 2000. This is a reduction of about 20%, achieved mainly through a vast increase in international funding for malaria control. But the WHO 2010 goal to halve the malaria burden was not achieved. Global estimates indicate that USD 5.1 billion are needed each year to fully fund the fight against malaria, but only USD 2 billion were globally disbursed in 2011. But more funding alone for procurement of current tools is not the solution to the problem. Today, malaria can be prevented, diagnosed and treated with a combination of existing tools, but given the threat of drug resistance, new, affordable, effective and innovative health tools urgently need to be developed. In addition, currently available interventions are not easily available to the affected population. Accessibility, acceptability and affordability of control interventions remain major problems that can only be fully addressed once countries develop stronger health systems.

Only with a functioning and locally accepted health infrastructure in place, can access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria be ensured for all people in need. Strengthening local health systems therefore significantly contributes to reducing the malaria burden, offering a viable and sustainable option for development at the same time and should be included international community´s malaria control efforts. STOP MALARIA NOW! conducted a research study in Kenya to find out more about the mutual interrelation between malaria control interventions and the strengthening of local health systems. Results are provided for downloading on the campaign´s website.

The campaign came to its end, but nevertheless further lobby work and awareness rising activities still remain necessary. Project partners will continuing their work and lobbing to malaria related issues and hope to continue their established network in the fight against malaria.

Contribution by Bernd Pastors, CEO of action medeor e.V., and Kristina König, STOP MALARIA NOW/action medeor e.V., to the Annual Report 2011 of the MMI Network. The campaign website is still accessible: www.stopmalarianow.org

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