A project of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Programs.

UAM Launches in Liberia, Honors President with Golden Boot

Through the power of football, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the United Against Malaria UAM) campaign have joined forces to fight malaria in Liberia, where 3.8 million people are at risk, according to Roll Back Malaria. The UAM launch took place in Monrovia during last week’s Presidential Cup, a friendly match between Liberia and Ghana in the lead up to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. As part of the event, the national football team captain presented a “golden boot” award to President Sirleaf, in recognition of her commitment to malaria prevention and control. She currently chairs the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.  

Joining President Sirleaf, the Liberian Minister of Health and the Minister of Youth and Sports also showed support for UAM, an alliance of football teams, heroes, celebrities, health and advocacy organizations, governments and corporations founded prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. UAM is made up of over 200 partners, including Voices, from diverse sectors and continents who invest their experience, time, funds, skills and enthusiasm because they share a common goal.

Africa’s most popular sport, football, offers a platform for raising awareness about malaria, a preventable and treatable disease. Players, banners, and public service announcements share a common message: Simple tools such as treated mosquito nets and safe indoor spraying can save lives. In the last decade alone, global malaria deaths have been reduced by 38 percent, and in 11 African countries, malaria cases and deaths have been reduced by more than 50 percent.

Nevertheless, malaria still disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable, primarily young children and pregnant women in Africa. They are more likely to be exposed to infection due to limited access to information about the prevention of the disease, treatment, and control measures.

UAM therefore aims to further close the gap and reduce the number of cases among the most vulnerable populations. As part of this awareness raising effort, billboards encouraging mosquito net usage will be erected around Monrovia and a number of public information video spots will be broadcast. President Sirleaf, the first female president in Africa, serves as a unique spokesperson in the campaign, which has broad appeal among football fans—usually men who are typically the main decision-makers on household finances in this region. 

Going forward, Liberia's National Malaria Control Program and Rebuilding Basic Health Services (RBHS) program, will manage the UAM campaign in the country, with behavior change communication support from Voices. In the lead up to the Presidential Cup event, Voices provided technical assistance to the NMCP and connected government officials working in malaria with the Liberia Football Association (LFA), a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). UAM is an official cause of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, CAF’s premier football tournament.

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