SENEGAL: Roll back malaria
President Abdoulaye Wade

Abdoulaye Wade

Combating a terrible disease requires more than political will or corporate funding. It demands a sense of urgency and creativity among all people everywhere. We must remember that just as peace and justice are universal virtues, so too disease and human hardship know no boundaries. Disease hits indiscriminately, regardless of race, religion, gender, political persuasion or continental boundaries. It simply kills, striking our children and elderly first, stealing our hope for the future and prematurely taking our wise elders from our midst.

And, when the disease in question is one that can be controlled and defeated by mobilising resources that already exist and by sensitising our communities and our citizens, I for one feel a deep urgency to sound the alarm. Our innocent and wise are falling at the whim of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes, not terrorists, not opposition parties, not ideologies… mosquitoes are wiping away the hope our future and the wisdom of our past. To an unprotected African child, terror is not the buzzing of bombs or missiles, but rather the sound of an Anopheles mosquito seeking a blood meal.

Although 90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa, malaria takes lives around the globe. North Eastern India continues to report highly-resistent malaria-carrying mosquitos. Yet malaria is a problem of which too many people are unaware, and about which our world leaders have become complacent. With strong leadership, awareness and commitment by the international community-malaria-endemic countries, donor countries and agencies, the private sector, community organizations, researchers, individuals-we can and we will beat malaria.

It's a harsh and dreadful reality, but malaria is the most common and deadly parasitic disease on earth today. Many of us forget that malaria is the number-one killer of our children, killing substantially more of our children than any other disease, including HIV/AIDS. A child dies every 30 seconds from this silent killer. Yet malaria is a disease that can be prevented with inexpensive, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and effective antimalarial medications that already exist. I'm a great supporter of tightening the technological divide between north and south, especially when it comes to technologies as basic as these which enable us to conquer malaria.

As a pro-active measure to help build public awareness of the ravages of malaria and the ways to prevent the disease from destroying more lives in our towns and villages, I have used the good patronage of the President's Office in Dakar to sponsor a two-day musical festival called AFRICA LIVE: The Roll Back Malaria Concert, directed by one of Africa's greatest musical talents and committed humanitarians, Youssou N'Dour. 

Youssou, who has just been honoured with a Grammy Award for his recent release Egypt, has pledged his support to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and has brought together a stellar line-up of committed musicians for this historic concert, including Baaba Maal and Orchestra Baobab from Senegal, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangaré from Mali, Manu Dibango from Cameroon, Corneille from Rwanda, Lokua Kanza from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Khaled from Algeria, Tiken Jah from Côte d'Ivoire, Seun Anikulapo Kuti, Tony Allen and Egypt 80 from Nigeria, Angelique Kijo from Benin, as well as rising young African talents from all over the continent.

For two star-studded nights, 40 000 spectators in Dakar's Iba Mar Diop Stadium-joined later by over one billion telespectators and radio listeners around the world on PBS, Arte, TV 5, and BBC-will enjoy the best of African music as we chant together to "Roll Back Malaria."

I have personally invited fellow world leaders, political thinkers, and corporate decision-makers to join me in this effort, and I am happy to report that a surprising list of world leaders have agreed to send video and audio messages, as will Ted Turner, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jeffrey Sachs, Sir Richard Branson, and many other remarkable human beings who understand that making a difference requires action.

What joins us all is our humanity and our creativity. As musicians and politicians we must join hands and join forces with our parents, neighbours, business relations and international organisations. Our creativity in using music and culture will inform people everywhere about preventing and controlling malaria, as our creative use of science will further the deployment of effective, safe and affordable antimalarial medications and long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Our creativity in communications, marketing, and commerce will encourage companies to manufacture and distribute these vital weapons against malaria even more quickly and dynamically and in ways that make both moral and economic sense. Our artistic creativity, thanks to my fellow Senegalese compatriot Youssou N'Dour and his soothing and compelling voice, will inspire us to wake up and realize that while malaria is a lethal adversary, it is ultimately weaker than the human will to defeat it.

Abdoulaye Wade is the President of the Republic of Senegal.