Football is the cornerstone of United Against Malaria. Played or watched by millions in Africa, the sport breaks down barriers in politics, language, culture, geography, and even technology, offering a fun and innovative platform for malaria awareness on the continent. Its nearly universal appeal is the engine that brings life-saving messages about malaria control to a wide audience in endemic countries via the media, in-stadium branding, or other advocacy channels. Significantly, these communication methods primarily extend to adult male populations, the household decisions makers in many African communities.
One of the challenges of malaria control on the continent is to ensure that at-risk communities use prevention and treatment tools correctly. Another is to ensure that African leadership maintains its focus on this deadly but entirely avoidable disease. UAM reaches both targets through football activities that educate and advocate on a large scale. To date, the campaign has produced more than 150 public service announcements in some 16 languages. It has sought out and won the support of presidents, ministers and parliamentarians, as well as national football federations and teams.
Voices has been an active partner of UAM in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and elsewhere, bringing visibility to the fight against malaria through the FIFA World Cup, the CECAFA Tusker Challenge Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations, and other football events. In Tanzania, for instance, UAM radio and TV spots starring popular football players reached 13.5 million people, according to a national Omnibus survey conducted after the 2010 World Cup. Of those, 64% of respondents recalled hearing or viewing the UAM spots. Of the 64%, 77% remembered the collective actions suggested by the PSAs: receiving treatment at first signs of fever, taking the correct medicines, receiving antenatal care during pregnancy, or sleeping under insecticide-treated nets. Of the 64%, 84% remembered the specific message about sleeping under a mosquito net and 25% remembered about treatment. Of the 64%, 29% talked about UAM spots, and 48% confirmed that they had taken steps to ensure that their families sleep under nets. This data suggests that some 6.6 million Tanzanians took action.