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We Should Do Everything We Can To Help Those Affected By Malaria

04/05/2017 12:08 BST | Updated 04/05/2017 12:08 BST
Michel Tcherevkoff via Getty Images

You'd be forgiven for thinking that losing all of your clothes and make-up on an overseas trip would be one of the most unfortunate things that could happen to a fashion and beauty vlogger like me.

What's more, before my time in Tanzania with Comic Relief and GSK late last year when my bag spent the entire week 2,000 miles away from me, I'd have probably agreed with you too.

But thanks to my travelling companion, Davina McCall (a person who's wing is beyond lovely to be tucked under) and her spare clothes, coupled with meeting such inspirational people, I couldn't have cared less about my little luggage malfunction.

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Davina and I were in the remote town of Kigoma in the far west of the country to find out more about the fight against the deadly scourge of malaria. As we began to meet with everyone involved in that fight - from doctors, to health workers, to mums fighting the disease on the front line - it soon became apparent that there is a lot of good news to share and that huge progress has been made in that fight. The figures speak for themselves - between 2000 and 2015 the number of people dying from the disease has dropped by 62% worldwide.

That's staggeringly good news by anyone's standards and the humble but effective mosquito net can take a lot of credit for it.

But as the mothers and fathers of Kigoma whose children are still at risk told us, this is a battle that is far from won. Despite amazing progress, malaria remains one of the world's biggest killers, claiming a child's life every two minutes - and it needs more than the mosquito net to beat it.

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That's why Comic Relief and GSK have joined forces to take the fight to the next level and build on the huge progress already made. The work they are funding together is all about helping to control this complex disease and save more lives by helping local communities understand how important it is to test for malaria (misdiagnosis is a big problem), treat the disease in the right way, and also track information about malaria properly so we can learn more about how to defeat it.

At the heart of this new partnership are people like Leonard. Leonard is a volunteer health worker for a project funded by Comic Relief and GSK. He plays the vital role of going out into the community and spreading the word about what needs to be done.

This is a man entirely committed to seeing the back of this awful disease for good and like so many people I met it was personal tragedy that drives him to do it. Leonard lost his first baby to malaria 16 years ago. At the time, he didn't know what the symptoms of malaria were and was told his baby was bewitched. By the time anyone realised, it was too late. Ever since, Leonard has pretty much dedicated his life to the fight against malaria. The world needs more Leonards.

Then there was the group of women Davina and I met, all in their 20s - my age and younger, who travelled around the local communities house-to-house to spread best practice and dispel myths about malaria and how to keep it at bay. When one of our group asked these women how many of them had lost a child to malaria, the reply was a matter of fact - 'All of us, of course'.

It seems that everyone I met carries a scar inflicted by malaria and the most heart-breaking thing of all is that these deaths can be prevented - which is why this partnership between Comic Relief and GSK is so important.

We've come so far in pushing malaria back that to give up now would be such an utter waste, and in places like Kigoma, where people who still live in its shadow are working incredibly hard to keep fighting it, we should do everything we can to help them.

So what's a week without your own clothes in the face of all that? Nothing!

Fleur de Force travelled to Tanzania with Comic Relief and GSK to raise awareness of World Malaria Day, 25th April to help #endmalaria. For more information visit comicrelief.com, youtube.com/fleurdeforce and @fleurdeforce.