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West African music stars turn out for US premiere of ‘Roll Back Malaria’ concert film

© UNICEF/HQ06-0098/Markisz
At the ‘Roll Back Malaria’ concert film premiere, Grammy-winning singer Youssou N'Dour (center), shown with Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam, announced the launch of a new health initiative for Africa.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 30 March 2006 – At the United Nations headquarters here last night, stars of the African music world and international public health experts put the spotlight on malaria, the single largest killer of children in Africa.

They came for the US premiere screening of ‘AFRICA LIVE: The Roll Back Malaria Concert’, co-hosted by the UN Foundation and UNICEF. The film documents a two-day concert held last year in Dakar, Senegal to support ‘Roll Back Malaria’, a global initiative made up of more than 90 partners whose goal is to halve deaths from malaria by 2010.

Grammy-winning Senegalese music legend and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour conceived the film along with director and producer Mick Csáky. At the premiere, Mr. N’Dour recalled his original motivation for organizing the project. “I realized all these numbers of people [were] dying every day, every month, every year,” he said. “I realized also that we have music. Music is power: We can use it to communicate.” 

Acclaimed West African singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo also attended the event. A strong supporter of the malaria awareness campaign, Ms. Kidjo is all too familiar with the deadly disease. “I’ve lost a lot of members of my family to malaria when I was growing up in Benin. It was always a fight, a struggle of every second and every day. Malaria kills more than HIV/AIDS.”

© UNICEF/2006/Markisz
Participants in a pre-screening panel discussion include (from l to r): Professor Jeffrey Sachs, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N'Dour, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam and the former Health Minister of Senegal, Dr. Marie Awa Coll-Seck.

‘Out of control in Africa’

Over a million people die from malaria each year, the vast majority in Africa and most of them children under the age of five. In fact, the disease kills a child every 30 seconds, or about 3,000 children every day.

Yet malaria is preventable – a point stressed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, who was present at the premiere and participated in the pre-screening panel discussion. Mr. Sachs is also Director of the UN Millennium Project and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals.

“Malaria remains basically out of control in Africa, even though we have the means to decisively bring it under control,” he said. “Insecticide-treated bed nets, effective medicines and a combination of therapies, indoor residual spraying in some places, good community health – these components mean that we can bring the number of deaths down by 80 percent, down by 90 percent.”

© UNICEF video
Acclaimed West African singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo at the concert film premiere. Ms. Kidjo performed at last year's ‘Roll Back Malaria’ concert.

Bed nets save lives

UNICEF has been helping countries around the world to take effective action against malaria, particularly by promoting the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

“One of the most effective interventions is to make sure that all children and mothers sleep under impregnated mosquito nets,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam said at the screening. “These mosquito nets cost only five dollars apiece. If all the children of Africa slept under mosquito nets, a quarter of a million children would not die every year.”

Also during the event, Mr. N’Dour announced the launch of the Youssou N’Dour Fund in collaboration with the non-profit IntraHealth International. The fund will help promote malaria prevention and improved health for vulnerable African mothers and children.

‘Africa LIVE: The Roll Back Malaria Concert’ will air on Thursday, 6 April, on PBS in the United States. The film is being released in the run-up to Africa Malaria Day, 25 April, when the world community shows solidarity with African countries battling this scourge.




30 March 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on the US Premiere screening of ‘AFRICA LIVE: The Roll Back Malaria Concert’.

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