Malaria isn't exactly used to the spotlight. The mosquitoes that spread malaria prefer to fly under the radar, in parts of the globe where it can thrive largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. And, with little to no fanfare, they kill nearly 3,000 children in Africa every single day.
But not for long. The world is battling the disease with mosquito nets, safe spraying, advanced medicines and new ideas. And we're even deploying a modern-day weapon in the centuries-old battle against the disease: a big, hot, bright spotlight.
This week, Malaria No More was one of five beneficiaries of American Idol's charity special, Idol Gives Back. Once again, television's most-watched program dedicated its primetime slot to showing Idol fans worldwide what they can do to be part of the solution to some of the world's most crucial challenges including hunger, poverty and the race to end malaria deaths. Since Wednesday night, the charity special has already raised over $45 million.
Thanks to the generosity of Idol fans during Idol Gives Back in 2007 and 2008, three million people in Africa are now sleeping under mosquito nets. Corporate sponsor ExxonMobil is supporting innovative malaria initiatives on the ground to make sure every family has the tools to protect themselves from malaria. And millions of Americans have learned that each individual can be part of the ultimate victory over malaria by donating a mosquito net and helping to spread the word.
The best part? The spotlight is making malaria sweat.
Ten African countries have already reduced malaria deaths by more than 50% and access to prevention and treatment tools is increasing across the Continent.
The spotlight is shining from several different corners: U.S. government programs like the President's Malaria Initiative and the Global Health Initiative are reaching millions of families; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is encouraging innovation in the race against malaria; and African leaders are taking on the disease in their own countries and showing tremendous results.
Some of the world's biggest stars are also helping to shine this light -- and having a real impact. Ashton Kutcher's race against CNN sent 90,000 mosquito nets to families in Senegal and the United Against Malaria campaign is bringing together soccer's biggest stars for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa this June. In Africa, Grammy-winner Youssou N'dour and Tanzania's top pop stars are raising their voices in song to encourage every family to take responsibility for malaria in their homes and communities.
All this week, leading up to World Malaria Day on April 25, people around the world will rally to demand an end to malaria deaths by 2015. So tell your friends, tweet your support or donate a mosquito net -- do whatever you can to help drag malaria out of the shadows and shine a bright light how the world can defeat the disease.
It's time for malaria to take its final bow.
Malaria No More is determined to end malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. Go to www.MalariaNoMore.org to donate a mosquito net and learn more about our work across Africa.