Thursday 25 April is World Malaria Day. And on Thursday, Richard Curtis' film about malaria, Mary and Martha, will air on multiple channels around the world. In fact, incredibly, over thirty channels will have shown Mary and Martha in the lead up to and beyond World Malaria Day.
This is important. This is important because the issue of malaria is important. Malaria kills a child every minute - so, in fact, in the number of minutes it takes you to read this, the same number of children will have died. What's even more terrible is that they will have died from a disease that is entirely preventable and treatable. Because I've re-read this blog a few times before posting it, my number is higher than yours and I'm really feeling that.
Here's what the film's characters Mary and Martha, played by Academy Award winner Hilary Swank as Mary and Bafta and Golden Globe winner Brenda Blethyn as Martha, discovered when they both tragically lost their sons to malaria: the heartbreaking fact that both their sons' lives could have been saved. The emotion and brilliant storytelling in Mary and Martha challenges any parent to fully reconsider the relationship and friendship they have with their own children. Malaria No More ambassador, Jo Yirrell, feels this deeper than any of us.
Mary and Martha tells a story of tragedy turned into friendship, empowerment and determination to put an end to this truly awful disease that, like polio and TB, just should not exist in this day and age.
By watching the film, I learnt that more money is spent on preventing male baldness than on researching malaria - an absurdity that is underlined by the fact that for only £5 for a mosquito net, 40p for a rapid testing kit and £1.20 for emergency drugs, so many more lives could be saved.
Thanks to the power of fictional storytelling and to Mary and Martha being on TV everywhere, audiences from Indonesia to Norway, Germany to South Africa, Cambodia to the USA are watching and hearing its powerful message. It's a chance for entertainment. A chance to learn. A chance to act. And a chance to set us further on the path towards ending needless deaths from malaria.
And just maybe, something in the story might resonate with everyone watching it this week, like it did me, and they will be compelled to take a step to take action against this needless disease.
Watch the trailer here
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