Social media helps save thousands of lives

By Kemo Cham
An epic collaboration involving one of world’s most popular social networking media, Twitter, and Malaria No More, an international body fighting against Malaria, is poised to save over 80, 000 lives from the deadly effect of malaria. Malaria No More announced on Thursday, January 28, 2010, that mosquito nets raised as part of a recently launched Twitter race is being distributed to a total of 89,724 Senegalese. Termed the “Twitter Net Distribution”, the exercise, according to the organizers, kicks off in a village called Saraya, were 7,000 mosquito nets will be distributed among villagers in need, with the remaining nets going to households in an other Senegalese village called Velingara. By granting the needy villagers at risk of catching the disease universal access to mosquito nets, the distributions hope to help close the malaria protection gap in both beneficiary villages. “New media is revolutionizing the way people participate in humanitarian efforts,” said Scott Case, CEO of Malaria No More. “Social media platforms like Twitter are changing how people engage in the world, where a simple online action can result in sending mosquito nets to Africa or disaster relief to Haiti.” As a way of saying thank you to their benefactors, the villagers pose for Twitter frame photos, which are then sent for posting on the site of Malaria No More. They have also been learning about the social networking medium. The campaign which is expected to complete at the end of March, in time to for World Malaria Day on April 25, 2010, is the brainchild of US actor, Ashton Kutcher, who challenged CNN in a Twitter race. Ashton pledged to donate 10,000 mosquito nets to Malaria No More if he won the race, and his pledge catapulted him to success as the race coincided with World Malaria Day 2009. A number of key messages were twitted, among them “Every 30 seconds a child dies from Malaria. Nets save lives. Support World Malaria Day”. This message turned out to be the most re-tweeted by April 25 of that year, and donations for mosquito nets poured into Malaria No More. Thanks to additional donations from other individuals on Twitter, a substantial amount of money was raised by on the social networking site alone. The present magnitude of the initiative was realized thanks to addition backing by celebrities like Hop mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs; Oprah Winfrey, alongside thousands of others. In thanking his followers during an award ceremony, Ashton Kutcher said, “The true reward of the race to a million followers on Twitter are the 90,000 people in Senegal who will sleep underneath bed nets because of the money we all raised through the race.” Malaria No More has the goal of ending deaths caused by the disease by the year 2015. It focuses on raising awareness of the illness among the public, policymakers, and businesses, while t the same time engaging the private sector to provide life-saving mosquito nets and other critical interventions to families in the most affected region, Africa.

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