Malaria No More UK Leadership Council Member and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
We can’t afford to take our eye off the ball in the fight against malaria. It’s an entirely preventable but deadly disease, says David Beckham. With teamwork, we can beat it.
I’ve seen first-hand the devastating, life-shattering impact that malaria can have for families in Sierra Leone and South Africa in my role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. The greatest pain — loosing a child or children — could be prevented.
As a dad, I just can’t imagine living with the knowledge that my child could catch a deadly disease overnight.
The reality of putting your son or daughter to bed, knowing that when they wake up they could be infected because of a single, stoppable bite must be unbelievably stressful.
At the heart of that worry, is a disease that’s utterly preventable and costs less than a cup of tea to treat.
The UK is making a real difference
The day I got involved in the fight against malaria, the best part of a decade ago, isn’t something I’ll forget in a hurry. Playing tennis at Wembley Stadium over the world’s longest mosquito net doesn’t happen every day. And when it’s against a fresh-faced young talent called Andy Murray, it tends to stick in the mind!
Success takes hard work and commitment. Child deaths from malaria have been slashed by more than 60%, since 2000. That’s amazing progress and proof that the UK’s generosity, when it comes to giving aid, makes a real difference to real lives.
An increase in malaria-related deaths
But malaria comes back stronger if you take your eye off the ball. I’m worried by the news that progress to save lives from malaria stalled, at the end of 2017. Deaths looked to be rising again. It’s a wake-up call that we can’t be complacent. It’s vital that the fight continues.
Nets still play an important role but we need to advance our tactics, test, treat and track the disease and find new ways to kick it out.
That’s why I joined forces with Ridley Scott’s team to create a film to launch a new global malaria campaign. We want to show how an insect that we often consider annoying (the mosquito) is still the deadliest animal on earth. Mosquitos take around half a million lives a year with just one tiny bite.
I think the film team have done an impressive job to bring that threat home, along with the positive message that we can beat malaria. It is our oldest and deadliest enemy, which some experts say has killed up to half of all people who have ever lived.
Just let that sink in — by acting now, the ability to end the epidemic is within our reach.
Malaria is more than just a killer; it also disables. In many parts of Africa, it stops kids from going to school and cuts people’s salaries by around 25%. The poorest are often the most affected.
Beating malaria will not only save millions of lives, it’s a no brainer on the financial front too. Every £1 invested in fighting malaria gives £36 back to communities and economies. That’s a remarkable return.
How can you make a difference?
This month, 52 world leaders will arrive in London for a Commonwealth Summit hosted by the UK. With 90% of Commonwealth citizens living in countries affected by malaria, these leaders have an incredible chance to pave the way, change the course of history and save millions of lives by uniting to fight malaria. I am proud to be part of what I hope will be the biggest malaria event of the decade.