David Beckham appears in a new advert like you’ve never seen him before, digitally aged to look like he’s in his 70s. Complete with wrinkles and a grey beard, he delivers a powerful message about ending malaria within our lifetimes.
A former professional footballer turned club owner, fashion icon, and philanthropist, Beckham made the advert for the charity Malaria No More, and it was created by the Ridley Scott Creative Group using their cutting edge special effects normally seen in Hollywood films.
Beckham is shown in a future world, delivering a speech to rapturous applause, declaring that malaria — “a disease that has killed billions, more than any other in history” — has been wiped out. The camera turns, it shows his older age, helping the viewer to imagine the future, before quickly returning to the present day Beckham who talks about how deadly malaria is — but he argues that it is possible to end it.
“Right now the fight is harder than ever,” present-day Beckham says. “And as a father it breaks my heart that a child dies every two minutes from malaria.”
“A future free from this disease is possible in our lifetimes,” he continues. “We must unite and tell our leaders that we won’t stop until the job is done.”
The campaign “Malaria Must Die, So Millions Can Live” was organised by the charity, which said in a statement shared with Global Citizen that, against the backdrop of COVID-19, they want to “reignite the belief that humankind is capable of uniting to defeat disease.”
“In doing so we can create a safer, healthier, stronger world for us all, and for future generations,” the statement adds.
Despite being preventable and treatable, malaria is still a devastating health crisis. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2019 World Malaria Report showed that over 400,000 people died from malaria last year, predominantly children under five across sub-Saharan Africa.
Progress on defeating the disease has been stalled by COVID-19 too. The WHO warned on Nov. 29 that due to a reduction in public health initiatives in 2020 there could be 100,000 excess deaths from malaria in 2020, and that the disease would likely kill more people than COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa.
This is despite the actions taken by malaria-affected countries and charities that have continued this year, said Malaria No More.
“Millions of mosquito nets will have been delivered by end of year, hundreds of thousands of houses have been sprayed with insecticide, and millions of children have been reached with preventative treatment,” the nonprofit explained.
But it adds that, as the WHO warns, interruptions to malaria diagnosis and treatment have ranged from between 5% to 50% across regions, and that the full impact of COVID-19 on malaria responses may not be known for some time.
Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said: “The emergence of COVID-19 has shown the world how critical our health systems are. It is crucial that 2021 sees the world getting back on track towards achieving existing targets to reduce malaria as we come through the pandemic.”
He added: “By investing in ending malaria, we will not only save lives that would otherwise be lost to this deadly disease; we will also protect current health systems from the double burden of malaria and other diseases like COVID-19.”