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04 octobre 2005

U.N. concert aims to fight malaria

GENEVA (Reuters) - Senegal's Youssou N'Dour, Peter Gabriel and other musicians are throwing the United Nations 60th anniversary concert next weekend to raise funds to combat malaria, which kills 3,000 children a day worldwide.

Proceeds will be combined with $1 million raised by U.S. actress Sharon Stone at the annual Davos summit in January to fund a pilot project in Tanzania to provide every family in two coastal areas with long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets.

The line-up for "United Against Malaria" links five continents: Gilberto Gil, Brazil's culture minister; Mali's sensation Rokia Traore and Ivorian reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly; Europeans Neneh Cherry, Axelle Red and Stephan Eicher; American Patti Austin; and Indonesia's

N'Dour, expected to team up with Swedish hip-hop star Cherry for their hit duet "Seven Seconds," will also perform a song he composed about malaria at the Geneva event on Saturday, October 8.

The mosquito-borne disease strikes up to 500 million people a year, killing between 2-3 million, 90 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. It kills an African child every 30 seconds and strikes many pregnant women, according to the U.N. whose goal is to halve the disease's toll by 2010.
"Malaria kills and its main victims are children and women. We can stop this scourge so people can live with dignity and go to work and school," Grammy award-winning N'Dour told reporters.

He hopes to build on the "Africa Live" concert in March to heighten awareness of the deadly disease.

Malaria slows economic growth in Africa and costs the continent $12 billion a year, according to Awa Marie Coll-Seck, executive secretary of the Roll Back Malaria programme, a partnership that includes U.N. agencies and the World Bank.

"Malaria is the primary cause of absenteeism among teachers and children in Africa ... But it can be treated and controlled," said Coll-Seck, a former health minister of Senegal.

It would cost $3 billion a year to control malaria, but the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria only has $1.2 billion to spend over two years, said spokesman Jon Liden.

"All ticket proceeds from the concert will go to help buy bed nets," Liden said, referring to the two-year project in Lindi and Mtwara, the two hardest-hit districts of Tanzania.

"It is a collaboration to see how effective it is when we do this systematically. The aim is to roll all across Africa and get enough bed nets to cover every family and child."

Nearly 300 million bed nets are needed, but the Global Fund can provide just 110 million over five years, he said.

"The October 8 concert is the beginning of a movement, not an end in itself," said Marie Heuze, U.N. spokeswoman in Geneva.
By Stephanie Nebehay

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