In anticipation of World Malaria Day on April 25, malaria awareness group United Against Malaria (UAM) is leading a movement of sorts in Washington D.C., to call upon Congressional leaders to continue the fight against the preventable disease. Toronto FC star Dwayne De Rosario is part of that charge, and spoke exclusively to Goal.com regarding the disease and upcoming events.For a disease that kills a child every thirty seconds, malaria is completely treatable, and, more importantly, totally preventable. However, the lack of knowledge is preventing the disease from being contained, which is why UAM is descending on Washington D.C. to help encourage the U.S. Congress to renew their commitment in fighting the disease.
As part of that initiative, UAM has enlisted the help of several prominent soccer players from around the globe as spokespersons, including several that play in Major League Soccer. One of those involved is Dwayne De Rosario, who was introduced to the cause nearly three years ago by then fellow MLS player Diego Gutierrez.
"In 2007, during the preseason, I met up with Diego Gutierrez, and he mentioned to me about this malaria campaign," De Rosario told Goal.com in a phone interview. "He wanted me to get involved, and he just gave me a brief rundown about malaria. And he mentioned that every thirty seconds, a child dies in Africa from malaria.
"At that point and time, I wanted to know more about it."
And that's exactly what happened. The Canadian international began to work with MLS W.O.R.K.S., the Nothing But Nets campaign, and the United Nations’ foundation to help the cause in fighting malaria. The MLS organization is aimed to address social issues facing young adults, while the Nothing But Nets campaign is attempting to send nets to Africa that would help stop the spread of malaria by 90 percent.
"I started working with [the organizations] first to spread awareness," De Rosario said. "Secondly, then to make myself knowledgeable in terms of how devastating malaria is."
In addition to Dwayne De Rosario, several other globally recognized soccer players are part of UAM. Landon Donovan, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou, and Kolo Toure all take part in public service announcements that are aimed towards spreading the awareness of the disease. The support extends past the soccer fields as well. Such recognized names as Bono and Anna Kournikova, Mandy Moore, and Molly Sims all take part in UAM’s fight in extinguishing the disease throughout Africa.
United Against Malaria has a one goal: Eliminate malaria by 2015. In order to achieve that goal, the group will make an appearance in Washington D.C. on April 20 to encourage Congress to support the fight against malaria. The first event of the day is a presentation of thousands of signatures to members of Congress, encouraging them to continue the fight. The second is a presentation to Congress, which will see the appearance of several current MLS players in Clyde Simms and Danleigh Borman, in addition to the retired Gutierrez.
In addition to the World Malaria Day, De Rosario also noted that the World Cup would be a good stage to help raise awareness, considering the fact that it is the first World Cup to ever be held on African soil. And with the world watching the proceedings in Africa, De Rosario noted that it would be the perfect time to help spread knowledge about the disease.
"With United Against Malaria at the World Cup, that would be a major landmark to touch," De Rosario told Goal.com. "Not only people here in North America, but all over the world will now see the World Cup in Africa for the first time. And people will gravitate to gaining more knowledge about how they can contribute to seeing the end of malaria by 2015."
Follow Steven Streff on Twitter @streffsoccer