The 2010 FIFA World Cup turned the world's eye on Africa and its unique challenges, such as malaria, which kills more people in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else. The United Against Malaria campaign launched in 2009 to leverage the global popularity of football to raise awareness about malaria on a global scale. Its founding partners include the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, led on the ground by Voices for a Malaria-Free Future, and other global health organizations, governments, corporations and football teams. One of the key outcomes of the campaign so far has been the collaboration among national malaria control programs, national football associations, and public and private sector institutions to reduce the malaria burden moving forward.
From the qualifying games to the closing concert of the World Cup, Voices brought visibility and focus to the campaign, recruiting champions, recording public service announcements, partnering with African-based companies to address vulnerable populations. An early qualifying match between Ghana and Mali was dedicated to the fight against malaria, with mosquito nets draped at the entrances of the football stadium, banners on the field, and UAM T-shirts on the ballboys and players. Fans also received UAM T-shirts to help them remember the importance of malaria prevention and treatment. UAM organized similar matches at local tournaments throughout Africa and produced 37 public service announcements in 16 languages. Voices also helped prepare Yvonne Chaka Chaka and other UAM champions prepare for their roles as masters of ceremony during “Celebrate Africa—The Grand Finale Concert” in Johannesburg on July 9, 2010, which drew an audience of more than 12,000 people at the close of the World Cup. UAM bracelets were also sold at the event, raising funds for bednets in malaria-endemic regions of Africa.
At the time of the World Cup in June and July 2010, UAM had the support of 16 national football associations in Africa, as well as top footballers such as Kolo Toure, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Fredi Kanoute and Landon Donovan. Representatives of FIFA also gave support, stating, "We have asked national teams in Africa to take on a cause to support and use their profile to make a difference in their countries. The United Against Malaria campaign is one of the real legacies to come from the FIFA World Cup and FIFA is happy to support the malaria community to achieve our collective aim of virtually ending malaria deaths by 2015.”
For Voices, a legacy of the World Cup was the distribution of 300,000 football-themed newspapers called GOAL!, which shared important malaria control messages in eight countries. The newspaper featured photos and interviews of well known players such as Didier Drogba, a World Cup tournament schedule, and a quiz about malaria prevention and treatment. Three key messages appeared throughout the publication: (1) Sleep under an insecticide-treated net every night. (2) At first signs of fever, go to a health center for malaria testing and treatment. (3) Encourage pregnant women to seek antenatal care, which helps prevent malaria for them and their unborn children. This model of raising public awareness among fans through football-themed newspapers has been replicated by partners at football events throughout Africa.