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Soccer power: Kicking malaria out of Africa
By Manish Chand | Thu, Jul 30, 2012
With the Olympics on, it's a fever nobody seems to mind in the 54-nation continent at any time. Soccer fever, which afflicts nearly every African, has now become a powerful tool to kick malaria out of the continent of a billion people where the mosquito-borne disease kills about 2,500 people a day.
The malaria-free Africa campaign has found powerful support from the continent's charismatic soccer icons who are lending their names and voices to free the continent of this curse.
"I am strongly committed to fighting against malaria. Soccer can be used to reverse the course of this deadly disease," says Roger Milla, Cameroonian football icon, who is among celebrity soccer players who have thrown their weight behind the anti-malaria campaign.
The African Union summit (July 15-16) held in this Ethiopian capital saw the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), a regional lobby of 43 African heads of state, renew its pledge to work closely with the African Union to end this scourge on the continent.
It wasn't just pious rhetoric. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the ALMA chair, was quick to underline that the continent needed an additional $3.2 billion in funding over the next three years to achieve universal access to life-saving tools and continue the drive toward eliminating malaria deaths.
Sirleaf said the assault on malaria has to begin in Africa, which accounted for nine-tenth of worldwide deaths from the disease in 2010. "A share of these resources will come from Africa. We can't ask the world to invest in Africa's health if we won't make the same investment ourselves, but we will need the world's help," said Sirleaf.
At a meeting held on the sidelines of the summit, Sirleaf also unveiled a partnership among ALMA, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and United Against Malaria (UAM) to leverage the popularity of soccer icons to reach out to millions of African football fans with well-targeted malaria messaging.
The CAF has in fact adopted malaria as a signature social message of the 2013 Orange Football Cup of Nations. "CAF recognizes that in order for African football to compete on the global stage, we must have players and communities free of malaria," said Issa Hayatou, president of CAF.
Ahead of the final round of matches for the Orange Cup in Sep-Oct, some of African football's biggest stars, including Ghana's Andrew (Dede) Ayew, Cote d'Ivoire's Gervinho, and Senegal's Moussa Sow, have already recorded malaria prevention and treatment messages in new UAM public service announcements (PSAs) that will be aired during the tournament.
Soccer chic apart, funding, technology and innovation hold the key to a malaria-free Africa. The stakes are huge: every dollar invested in malaria control in the continent generated $40 GDP on the continent, reveals a recent independent study commissioned by ALMA, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Malaria, and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. The study also showed that scaling up to universal coverage of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria by the end of 2015 will prevent 640 million cases and avert three million malaria-related deaths.
In this context, innovative financing will play an important role. The signs are encouraging: Over the last five years, an airline tax has raised over $2 billion, of which $1.2 billion has been invested in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. Currently, six African countries are implementing the airline tax and 14 countries are in the pipeline. Besides 44 African ministers of health have been trained on an iPad application that has been launched by ALMA to enhance interactivity with ministers and enable a rapid response system to emerging crises in countries.
Other good news coming out of Africa is that 14 countries have hiked their domestic contribution to public health by more than two percent in times of the global slowdown.
There is still a long way to go in this ongoing battle against malaria, but the net gains would be astonishing: according to various estimates, Africa will add at least $300 billion to GDP if the disease is eliminated from the continent.
African women set to drive continent's resurgence: AU official
By Manish Chand
Addis Ababa, July 23 (IANS) It's a dream come true for African women, says Litha Musyimi-Ogana, the African Union's chief pointsperson on gender issues as she hails the election of the first female head of the AU Commission, saying more women in positions of power will spur the continent's resurgence.
"We are extremely elated about the election of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has broken the glass ceiling by becoming the first elected woman head of the AU Commission. It's good news for Africa and for the African women," Musyimi-Ogana, director, women, gender and development directorate, in the AU Commission, told IANS in an interview here.
After a bitterly-fought election for the 54-nation AU's top job last week, it's business as usual at the glittery Chinese-built AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital.
But one can still sense a surge of jubilation among women who are still rejoicing in the victory of Dlamini-Zuma, who has joined a small club of power women in Africa, which includes Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female head of state, and Malawi President Joyce Banda.
"There can't be a better person than Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma to occupy this post as she actively fought for gender parity even when she was the foreign minister of South Africa. It's a dream come true for us," said Musyimi-Ogana, an impassioned advocate for women's rights.
"Africa is providing leadership in the area of women's empowerment, transforming things on the ground and opening doors for women to enter public life," she said. She reels off an impressive array of statistics to underline the unstoppable march of African women as they conquer new heights in their quest for empowerment and parity.
"In Senegal, 42 percent of the legislators are women. In Rwanda, 56 percent of parliament comprises women. In South Africa, around 40 percent legislators are women."
Sporting floral headgear and a traditional African gown, Musyimi-Ogana is upbeat about the prospects of women empowerment in the continent and envisages new milestones that are waiting to be scaled.
"Unlocking the potential of women can unlock the potential of a nation. Putting women in power and decision-making bodies will help spur the African resurgence," she said.
Musyimi-Ogana's enthusiasm chimes with the spirit of the AU declaring the 2010-2020 period as the decade of women's empowerment.
The AU has set up a fund for women which includes 1 percent of contributions made by member-states for the AU. The AU is supporting 53 grassroots projects in 27 countries to advance the empowerment of women.
True, there are formidable obstacles in the path of gender empowerment with high child mortality rate, poor health services, disparity in education and scant economic opportunities, despite the fact that women are integral to Africa's food security.
But the situation of women in Africa, said Musyimi-Ogana, has shown a steady incremental improvement over the last decade. It's a silent revolution in the making, with pan-African institutions like the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) incorporating gender parity and empowerment in their polices and practices.
Musyimi-Ogana has been among a handful of spirited women in this battle for gender parity in Africa. She played an important role in getting the NEPAD to create Gender and Civil Society Organizations Unit in 2004 that seeks to bring women's issues into policies, programmes and activities of the organization.
The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which includes periodic audits of the policies and practices of African countries to evaluate progress in promoting democracy, good governance and economic management, now also includes steps taken by them to promote and protect women's rights, and the laws and policies they have adopted to enhance the participation of women in society.
According to estimates by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an average 16.8 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women in sub-Saharan Africa.