Here we are again - glued to our TV screens, revelling in the hilarious and at times toe-curling jungle trials of ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! This year's series is captivating the nation's imagination more than ever with the opening episode bursting back onto our screens with a record-breaking audience of 12million viewers. This is the highest launch audience figure in the show's history, which, as the director of television at ITV, Peter Fincham said, is "a real testament to the continuing power of this brilliant show."
The show's popularity is all the more impactful because behind the fun and frolics in the jungle, the celebrities have united to support an important cause - Malaria No More UK. This is the fifth year of our charity partnership with 15p from every phone vote being donated to support our work and help save lives from malaria.
I remember my first week working for Malaria No More UK when I found myself, nervously sitting in front of a senior team from ITV trying to make the case for why their flagship show should support one charity, rather than one per celebrity, as in previous years. Happily they agreed and the legacy continues to be profound. As well as helping make malaria an issue that resonates with the British public, the financial support has had a huge impact on our work to save lives in Africa - helping us protect millions from this deadly but preventable disease.
Working behind the scenes on I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!, it's inspiring to witness the extent to which popular culture can help further a cause. Last year a great builder who was working on my roof said he had seen the show and was shocked that it cost less than a cup of tea to treat a child from malaria. Despite malaria being a disease that affects half of the world's population, many people still have little knowledge of the disease but feel compelled to act when they find out how cheap it is to treat.
Every year one of my favourite parts of our collaboration with ITV is when we get the opportunity to speak to the celebrities the night before they enter the jungle and talk to them about malaria. Some have been to Africa where 90% of all malaria deaths occur and seen the impact of the disease close up. This year Matthew Wright shared his personal experience saying, "I worked closely with a friend who had malaria, a former editor of The Wright Stuff. He often visited family in Zambia but didn't think he needed to bother taking the malaria tablets. However, the last time he came back he got ill, then he got really ill and spent a few weeks in hospital. He was lucky enough to recover but it brought home to me the truly horrible impact of malaria. Mosquitoes don't distinguish between people, it you are exposed you can suffer. It makes you wonder why anyone is dying from malaria given it is so easily prevented and treated. Protection from malaria is affordable to our planet so there is no need for people to die. If my time in the jungle can help raise awareness and save lives it'll be worth all the scary spiders I meet!"
When we caught up with Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington she too recalled seeing malaria close up, saying "I went out to Zambia after the Olympics to do a charity bike ride. Zambia is such a beautiful country but the whole population is at risk of malaria. I took my anti-malarials because I knew how dangerous it can be if you don't. Whenever we could, we slept under a mosquito net but not everyone has the option. I saw firsthand the devastating effects of malaria. I saw people getting really ill, it's shocking. Millions of people suffer every single day so I am delighted to be able to help save lives by being in the jungle."
No child should die from malaria, wherever they are. ITV's partnership is invaluable with the fun in the jungle helping us to protect and transform lives across Africa.
Help make Malaria No More by voting on I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! and sharing celebrity content online. Find out how here: www.malarianomore.org.uk/imaceleb
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