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ICC Cricket World Cup begins, highlighting the needs of children affected by AIDS

© AP Photo/Bangash
India's cricket team enters Trelawny Stadium in Jamaica for the opening ceremony of the ICC Cricket World Cup with a young boy wearing the AIDS campaign t-shirt.

By Dan Thomas

NEW YORK, USA, 12 March 2007 – Cricket’s largest and most prestigious event, the ICC Cricket World Cup, officially kicked off in Jamaica this weekend with a colourful ceremony featuring 10,000 spectators and over 2,000 performers.

But amidst the revelry there was also a sense of purpose, as the International Cricket Council (ICC) teamed up with UNICEF and other partners to draw attention to the issues facing children and young people affected by HIV/AIDS. It was all part of a new partnership, announced earlier this month, between the ICC, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS.

While the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 will see the world’s top 16 teams do battle on the field, off the field they will be as one in supporting the Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS campaign.

The ICC Cricket World Cup partnership will help awaken the world to the fact that “AIDS is robbing tens of millions of children of childhood itself,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Jamaica, Bertrand Bainvel. Mr. Bainvel spoke at a Kingston news conference held last week in the run-up to the matches.

© UNICEF/HQ07-0141/Nesbitt
A young fan holds a cricket bat after a youth-league match in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.

Raising awareness, fighting stigma

More than 2 billion cricket fans are expected to follow this global sporting event, which starts with an opening ceremony on 11 March in Jamaica and ends with the ICC Cricket World Cup final in Barbados on 28 April.

“The spirit of cricket is a special part of our game and is a concept that stretches beyond the boundaries of the outfield,” said ICC President Percy Sonn. “We hope the range of activities delivered at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 will make a difference to raising awareness and reducing stigma around HIV in the Caribbean and across the ever-growing cricket world,” he added.

“Children have been the missing face of the AIDS pandemic,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “The International Cricket Council will be a powerful ally in ensuring that children are at the heart of the global response to the epidemic.”

© UNICEF/HQ07-0143/Nesbitt
A South African girl surrounded by other children plays a shot informally after an under-13 cricket match.

Video messages from top cricketers

To mark the occasion, UNICEF is re-launching the Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS website with a special section featuring video profiles of cricketers talking about the impact of AIDS on children, a quiz, a video competition and regular stories and photographs from the event.

A series of video messages supporting the Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS campaign by 28 of the world’s top cricketers, including Australian captain Ricky Ponting and Indian captain Rahul Dravid, will be broadcast on TV and at the matches. Click here to see the public service announcements.

Players and officials from each team will wear the red and blue campaign ribbon during their first games and during the final. Players will also visit UNICEF-funded programmes in the Caribbean supporting children and young people affected by HIV.

With support from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS – a coalition of over 50 broadcasters in 23 Caribbean countries and territories – is also launching the region’s first media-led, multi-platform campaign on HIV/AIDS, known as LIVE UP!

© UNICEF/HQ07-0063/Noorani
Boys play cricket at Abahani Playground in the Dhanmondi neighbourhood of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Audience in AIDS-affected countries

Cricket is popular in many of the countries that are most impacted by AIDS, including India and South Africa. Together, these two countries are home to around 11 million of the 40 million people living with HIV worldwide.

In the Caribbean, UNAIDS estimated that 250,000 people – 15,000 of whom were children under the age of 15 – were living with HIV in 2006.

Cricket is also a major sport in many donor countries that are active in the global AIDS response, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and New Zealand. All are competitors in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007.

Anwulika Okafor contributed to this story.




March 2007:
Watch the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 opening ceremony video about the partnership against AIDS. Produced by John Mims and Dan Thomas. Narrated by Donald Bobb.
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Watch one of the video public service announcements in which star cricketers Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid talk about the impact of HIV and AIDS on children.
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