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Belinda Stronach and Rick Mercer launch anti-malarial bednet campaign:“Spread the Net” with UNICEF Canada

MONTREAL, 9 November  2006 – “1 Net. 10 Bucks. Save Lives. Spreadthenet.org.”  It’s a mantra that Belinda Stronach and satirist Rick Mercer want everyone to understand, repeat and do something about over the next two years. The Member of Parliament for Newmarket-Aurora joined one of Canada’s funniest comedians Rick Mercer, world leading economist and global anti-poverty advocate Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and President & CEO of UNICEF Canada Nigel Fisher to launch Spread the Net.

It’s an innovative partnership with UNICEF Canada with the goal of helping prevent the spread of malaria among African children by raising the funds to purchase 500,000 insecticide-treated bednets at the cost of $10 each over the next two years. One X One founder Joey Adler and Daniel Germain, founder of the Montreal Millennium Promise Conference, kicked off the fundraising campaign by each announcing contributions of $150,000 to Spread the Net.

One $10 bednet can protect a child sleeping under it for up to five years from being bitten by a mosquito carrying malaria. Or as the edgy, web-based education and fundraising campaign developed pro-bono by TAXI points out: Every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria. Malaria kills 3,000 children a day. 1 Net. 10 Bucks. Saves Lives.

“Spread the Net is designed to have an impact. It’s a simple way for Canadians to make a concrete difference for African children - to help them in their fight to survive against malaria”, said Belinda Stronach. “When I visited Africa with Jeffrey Sachs and Rick Mercer last year, I realized that we had to find a way to educate Canadians about the killer impacts of malaria and at the same time help them do their own part.

This partnership with UNICEF Canada will enable this to happen, and the contributions of ONE x ONE and the Montreal Millennium Promise Conference are the first of what I know will be many large donations and small donations. Through Spread the Net, one $10 bednet can make a difference and 500,000 bednets will help save even more children”.

Every year there are between 350 and 500 million cases of malaria in the world – the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa, and most of those among children. Malaria is the largest single cause of death among African children less than five years of age, claiming over one million young lives every year. Those who survive the infection can be severely debilitated for life. Insecticide-treated bednets are hung over beds to keep out malarial mosquitos. They are an inexpensive and highly effective tool for preventing the spread of the disease. Properly used, bednets can reduce malaria transmission by up to 50 per cent and deaths of children by 20 per cent.

“The problems of disease and poverty in Africa can seem overwhelming,” said Rick Mercer. “Spread the Net brings it all down to a straight forward human level. Canadians don’t agree on much but we can all support a war on mosquitoes. With the click of a mouse at spreadthenet.org you can stick it to the mosquitoes and save lives at the same time. It’s the ultimate Canadian solution.”

“Lifting Africa out of disease and poverty will require governments to re-think policies and priorities, but it will also require the efforts of individuals,” said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and founder of the Millennium Promise Alliance. “We have the capacity to beat malaria and Canadians have a chance to do their part through Spread the Net. Those behind it and those yet to be engaged by it understand that eradicating poverty and disease in Africa is not a policy option, it is a moral imperative.”

“Not only does malaria threaten the health and lives of millions of children every year, it is also a huge burden on the health systems of malaria-endemic countries, accounting for 30 to 50 per cent of all outpatient clinic visits and up to 50 per cent of hospital admissions in Africa,” said Nigel Fisher. “We know how to protect children from malaria and have an obligation to help do so. UNICEF is working with its partners throughout Africa to do just that. When Belinda Stronach approached us with her offer of support, we applauded her vision and welcomed her commitment.”

“ONE x ONE is proud and delighted to be a charter sponsor of Spread the Net,” said Joey Adler, President of Diesel Canada and founder of ONE x ONE. “For us it is about more than good corporate citizenship, it is about doing what’s right. I want today to issue a challenge, not only to individual Canadians but to my friends in the business community to get out their cheque books and help make Spread the Net the most successful anti-malaria campaign of its kind in the world.”

“The Millennium Promise Conference has been a labour of love and a dream come true,”said Daniel Germain. “But its lasting benefit will not come from the high ideals and noble sentiments that are expressed by delegates, it will be from the practical ways it inspires people to help poor people the world over. Spread the Net is perfectly in tune with the conference’s theme It’s Time for Children and I am proud to announce our contribution of $150,000.”

The bednets will be distributed in Liberia and Rwanda for the first stage of the program. Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf welcomed the news. "Liberia must look to future generations to strengthen national reconciliation and rebuild the country. It is the nation's children that will ensure lasting peace and development in Liberia. Yet as in so many African countries, disease and the lack of adequate health care are leeching the country of it's future. Malaria is the number one killer in Liberia, and it is the children who are most vulnerable,” said President Johnson-Sirleaf. With 47 per cent of deaths per year being attributed to this lethal disease, a shocking 57.9 per cent of these are children under five years of age. Therefore, as we work to rebuild our country, the Government of Liberia is strongly committed to tackling the scourge of malaria. We are deeply grateful for all the support being mobilized by the people of Canada through the Spread the Net campaign."

Spread the Net is an opportunity for individuals, organizations, groups and corporate citizens to make a financial contribution - big or small - toward the purchase of insecticide-treated bednets – critical tools in the prevention of malaria. Contributions can be made via www.spreadthenet.org; by calling 1-800-567-4483; or by mailing a cheque to UNICEF Canada Spread the Net campaign, 2200 Yonge Street, Suite 1100, Toronto, ON, M4S 2C6.

For more information on Spread the Net visit www.spreadthenet.org.


For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Susan Smith, Bluesky Strategy Group: Tel + (613) 241-3512 x 221, Mobile + (613) 371-0624, susan@blueskystrategygroup.com
Barbara Strang, UNICEF CANADA: Tel + (416) 482-4444 x 830, bstrang@unicef.ca




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