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South Africa

Sri Lankan cricket stars join fight against HIV in South Africa

UNICEF Image: South Africa, Sri Lanka, cricket
© UNICEF South Africa/2007/Hearfield
Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara with children at Galhlanso Primary School, Tembisa, Johannesburg

By Davis Mulenga

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 14 September 2007 – Sri Lankan cricketers Kumar Sangakkara, Jehan Mubarak and Upul Tharanga have been taking time off from their duties on the pitch in the ICC World Twenty20 championships to campaign for children’s rights in the global fight against HIV and AIDS.

On Wednesday, they visited Johannesburg’s Tembisa Township where they gave a coaching clinic to boys and girls on how the values of sport, particularly cricket, can help mitigate the situation of millions of children living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

“It’s been a wonderful experience and I hope that in the next week or so we can get more of the guys involved in programmes like this and have them come and spend some time with great kids like these,” Kumar Sangakkara said.

As for whether he spotted any future South African cricket stars among the group, the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper and batsman added, "I'm very impressed with the girls. They have great cricketing ability. It's great to see everyone taking an interest from a very young age."

Developing in all areas of life

The visit was part of a series of recent initiatives borne out of the partnership between the International Cricket Council (ICC), UNICEF and UNAIDS to promote the Unite for children, Unite against AIDS campaign which was launched by UNICEF and UNAIDS at the United Nations in 2005.

UNICEF Image: South Africa, Sri Lanka, cricket
© UNICEF South Africa/2007/Hearfield
Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara coaching a girl during his visit to the Tembisa Township.

Unite for children, Unite against AIDS stresses the unacceptable prevalence of HIV and AIDS among youths. It makes a call to action to de-stigmatise the AIDS epidemic while giving greater visibility to children living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, and the disease is especially prevalent in poverty stricken areas such as Tembisa.

“We believe that a healthy mind needs a healthy body,” said Principal of Gahlanso Primary School in Tembisa, Mr. R. Setati. “We can’t only teach children, they need to do some activities so that they can develop in all spheres of life. At Gahlanso we develop learners not just mentally, but physically, spiritually and otherwise.”

A rousing farewell

The Sri Lankan players received a rousing farewell after their visit. They left behind a commitment not only to cricket, but also to the fight against HIV and AIDS.

"They taught us lots of things – how to bat and how to bowl and how to catch balls. I like to smash the ball," said one budding batsman who played a game of continuous cricket with the Sri Lankan stars.

All three cricketers had a blast and were treated to some traditional dancing and singing as they eventually left the playground to get back to the business of trying to win a cricket tournament.

"Whether it's international cricket or whether it's on the playground of a school, it's all about having fun and that's the message we're trying to bring across to the kids," said Jehan Mubarak.

Every minute of every day, AIDS costs the world another child’s life. It’s time for us all to Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS. Donate now!




14 September 2007:
UNICEF Correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on the Sri Lankan cricketers’ visit to Tembisa Township in Johannesburg, South Africa to promote the global campaign Unite for children, Unite against AIDS. Filmed by Gugu Radebe.
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