Where's The Net? Launches in Sierra Leone
On 16th of February, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation launched a worldwide relay campaign: “Where’s the Net?” to raise awareness about malaria prevention.
Over the next five months a symbolic anti - malaria net will travel between people of different faiths across the world to spread vital messages about the devastating, yet preventable, disease which kills up to 750,000 people each year.
More than twenty five “Net Bearers” from five continents in cities as far apart as California to Kathmandu have been selected to spearhead the campaign. These individuals will mobilise different faith communities around this cause through exciting events. One Net Bearer will take the net to Mount Everest, while another is hosting a rock concert in Argentina. Read more about their events.
Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation launched the Faiths Act campaign in Freetown, Sierra Leone via video in front of government officials, Christian and Muslim leaders and hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers. He encouraged those in attendance to help the Net Bearers spread these key messages throughout Sierra Leone and said, “With your efforts and with this message, we can reach faith communities all over the world and save lives”.
In 2000, 189 nations committed to reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, including combating malaria and other diseases. With just three years to go we are a long way from hitting some of these targets but we know that malaria prevention is achievable.
Importance of Faith Leaders
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is working with Christian and Muslim faith communities to spread critical malaria prevention messages alongside national malaria programmes.
Faith leaders not only have unparalleled reach – their authority within their communities means that they have legitimacy within local communities. Tony Blair said, “What Imams, Pastors and Priests say and recommend carries weight, especially here in Sierra Leone where most of the population go to the Church or Mosque on a regular basis. Even more can be achieved if these communities work together to help combat this disease”.
The Foundation’s Faiths Act programme is creating a pyramid training structure - a small number of faith leaders are trained in malaria prevention (Malaria Faith Ambassadors), these vital health messages are then passed onto congregants (Malaria Faith Champions) who carry out household to household visits delivering this simple, practical advice throughout Sierra Leone.
Ray Chambers, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria said: “What faith communities have working in their favour are networks, infrastructure, and influential leaders to deliver health messages". So far, over 57,000 households have been visited, reaching over 280,000 people. The programme aims to reach over 100,000 households by June 2012.
This campaign gives people all over the world the opportunity to learn more about the disease, and most importantly, learn what they can do to help end it.