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African music shines spotlight on malaria

© UNICEF Senegal/2005/Delvigne-Jean
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour at the Roll Back Malaria press conference.

DAKAR, Senegal, 11 March 2005 - Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds in Africa. Grammy-winning Senegalese musician and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour warned journalists of the daily tragedy that Africa faces due to malaria.

“Do you know there’s a tsunami every day in Africa?” said N’Dour at a press conference before this weekend’s AFRICA LIVE: The Roll Back Malaria Concert.
“Three thousand children die in Africa every day because of malaria,” he said. “When I heard about malaria’s deadly impact on children under five years of age, and on pregnant women…that’s when I decided we really needed to do something now.”

And so he did. The rhythm of drums – and excitement – fills the streets of Dakar today as the city gears up for a star-studded two-day musical event organized by N’Dour. N’Dour will be sharing the stage with major African stars such as Baaba Maal, Salif Keita, Orchestra Baobab, and Angelique Kidjo.

AFRICA LIVE, taking place on 12 and 13 March, aims to put the spotlight on the mosquito-borne disease that kills more children in Africa than any other disease.

Lack of information within African communities is a major part of the problem. Nine of every 10 malaria deaths could be prevented. Many people are unaware of the severity of the disease. “People don’t take it seriously,” says N’Dour. “A man can say to you, ‘I have malaria… I’ll see you tomorrow. But he doesn’t know that he could die before tomorrow comes.”

The concert, reaching millions of people, will also highlight prevention methods such as the use of impregnated mosquito nets.  It’s brought together an impressive line-up of stars and sponsors to support the event.

“We think of music as entertainment, but we understand that music is also powerful,” says N’Dour. “This is why many great artists are here in Dakar. We have a chance to deliver one of the biggest shows in Africa. We need people to take malaria seriously, and the point of this concert is to get that message across.”

N'Dour talked about the important role artists play in sensitizing audiences. “I remember seeing Angelique Kidjo perform. In the middle of the concert she will stop and talk to the audience about her experiences working with UNICEF. I saw people in the audience to begin to cry,” says N'Dour. “This is the power and impact that artists can have.”

“If my continent is sick, then I feel sick,” says UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo. “There is so much to be done in Africa, so much work to be done against malaria. I am very proud to be part of this concert.”

The main sponsors of AFRICA LIVE are Sumitomo Chemical, Exxon Mobil Corporation and the United Nations Foundation. UNICEF as a member of the global Roll Back Malaria Initiative is also a sponsor.

“We are going to tackle malaria in this generation,” says UN Foundation Vice President Kathy Bushkin. “We have the resources, we have the technology and we have the political will and the commitment. This time Africa can stand together – not as a victim, but as a victor.”

In the words of Youssou N’Dour: “Music can accelerate the rhythm of the fight against malaria. Many people think of Africa and think of poverty. But culturally, I think we are rich, and it makes sense to use this real richness to talk about our problems. This concert is a way to talk to the world.”



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