Ivorian Football Star Gervinho Donates Bednets ahead of Africa Cup of Nations
In the densely populated neighborhood of Abobo, in Cote d’Ivoire’s capital city, football superstar Yao Kouassi Gervais stood before a crowd, a pile of insecticide-treated bednets at his back. Holding up a plastic blue package, he urged the children of the Village SOS Orphanage to sleep under a net every night to protect themselves from malaria, a deadly disease that affects mostly young children and pregnant women. The orphanage is close to where he grew up, playing soccer as a young boy on their fields.
The Ivorian footballer known around the world as “Gervinho” is an increasingly active champion in the fight against malaria. The forward who also plays for Arsenal in England has appeared in public service announcements across Africa, joining Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, and other United Against Malaria champions on a global stage. These malaria prevention and treatment messages will air throughout the continent during the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations tournament in January 2013, where the organizers have adopted UAM as an official social cause.
The net demonstration and distribution in Abobo benefitted the SOS Children’s Village, a local orphanage that received nets donated by Gervinho, as well as school supplies donated by UAM partner bookseller Librairie de France (LDF). Several orphans participated, giving the opening remarks and reading four poems, which concluded with remarks from the orphanage’s director. Rene Yedieti of LDF, the mayor of Abobo, and other business and community leaders participated alongside representatives of CARE, PSI, Speak Up Africa, and the Pharmacie de la Sante Publique. At least 100 community members and six journalists attended the event organized last month by Voices and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs staff in Abidjan. The high-profile event will help to build momentum, strengthen partnerships, and raise awareness needed to combat malaria on an even greater scale.
After his speech, Gervinho played football with the children, using UAM-branded balls. Since 2009, UAM has leveraged the global popularity of football to mobilize political and popular support for achieving the universal target of near-zero malaria deaths by 2015. Ivorians are currently undertaking a major challenge to reduce the impact of malaria through the universal coverage of nets across the country.