It's an exciting, rewarding and at times, unpredictable campaign. Our activity starts in earnest in the build-up to the show, making sure all the celebrities are fully informed having received their malaria briefing packs. Then, just hours before they enter the jungle, we embark on a series of early morning phone calls to give a fuller briefing about how our partnership with the show is saving lives. These calls are one of my favourite moments as we hear each celebrity's reflections on the fact that 15p from every phone vote is being donated to help fight malaria. They know they will soon be doing battle in the jungle but remain united at the outset by their support for our mission to make malaria no more.
We're inspired and moved by the celebrity's own stories and experiences. Some have suffered themselves, such as 2011 contestant and former horse racing champion Willie Carson. Others have spent time in Africa, where over 90% of all malaria deaths occur, so it is no surprise they've seen the impact of the disease close up. The 2010 Jungle Queen Stacey Solomon and 2011 Jungle King Dougie Poynter both spent time with families and people their own age who have lost loved ones to malaria and they came home hugely impacted by all they had seen.
This year, Charlie Brooks shared her memories about her visit to Tanzania 18 months ago with her daughter Kiki who was six at the time. Charlie recalled: "It was the first time she (Kiki) saw the impact of malaria, it's just so common out there. We spent time in schools and met many young children and whole families whose lives were torn apart by malaria. It was heart-breaking but I want her to know what's happening in the world - malaria is so widespread and especially affects Mums and young children."
Out of all this year's contestants, Nadine Dorries has the most in depth experience having lived and worked as a nurse in Zambia 20 years back, when malaria was rife. Nadine lost friends to the disease and witnessed some painful experiences, she told us: "One of my best friends went through hell and lost her three month old baby to the disease, it was incredibly distressing, especially as malaria is preventable."
Despite half the world's population being affected by malaria, many celebrities and people across the UK have little knowledge or experience of the disease. We find however that time and time again, as soon as people hear about the devastation malaria causes and the fact it can be stopped, they want to help. Eric Bristow summed it up saying: "It's a no brainer" then adding: "I've not been to Africa as darts isn't big over there. What did hit me though is that for the price of a set of darts, you can also save a life from malaria. That's got to be target worth aiming for."
Linda Robson was audibly moved when we spoke, having recently become a grandmother herself and reflecting on how different her life would be if she were a grandmother in parts of Africa, saying: "We're so lucky in the UK, we've got doctors, education and treatment all at our disposal but in Africa so many people don't. To know that a child dies every minute from malaria is really distressing. My first grandchild is just eight months old, and as much as I love her, that's what every mother and grandmother feels about their child or grandchild. Every child deserves the best possible chance in life."
Other celebrities have taken a practical approach to linking with our cause, David Haye pointed out he's used to training for big fights against tough opponents so when thinking about the mosquito: "It's strange to think that a tiny mosquito can potentially do me more damage than a heavyweight boxer". Colin Baker was struck by the fact that despite being one of the world's oldest diseases that we now know how to prevent and treat, malaria remains a leading killer of young children: "It's remarkable that we've achieved a point of civilization where we are more technically able and capable than ever before, yet we have not conquered one of the world's biggest, preventable killer diseases - malaria. This is something we must all work to achieve."
These celebrity perspectives help us raise awareness beyond the fun in the jungle, adding value to and building on ITV's extensive campaign plans. We also incorporate fun and interactive elements to the campaign, from drip feeding our best celebrity content via social media to running competitions to win exclusive jungle prizes signed the celebrities and kindly donated by ITV.
Malaria is a disease that we can all play a part in making no more. There are many ways to get involved beyond voting on the show and we hope you'll unite with the celebrities and people across the country in support of our vision for a world where no child dies from malaria.
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