22 April 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE ON PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT CAMPAIGN TO RID WORLD OF MALARIA


A wide-ranging global public service announcement campaign, which would target malaria with 1,400 public service announcements in at least 40 languages and which would have the capacity of reaching more than five billion people worldwide, was introduced today at United Nations Headquarters in New York, just ahead of the first commemoration of World Malaria Day on Friday, 25 April.


The Buzz and Bite Malaria Prevention Campaign would use animated characters and humour to reach more than 80 per cent of the global malaria at-risk population, Firdaus Kharas, the campaign’s creator, director, producer and co-writer, told correspondents at a press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Canada.  Mr. Kharas is Chairman of Chocolate Moose Media, an international media content company focused on creating television, film and animation for Canadian and international markets. 


The campaign, estimated to cost in the range of $500,000, involved the creation of 30 animated public service announcements and five audio public service announcements, Mr. Kharas explained.  The 30 animated public service announcements covered a broad range of information about how malaria was transmitted and how to ensure protection against that preventable disease, particularly through the use of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, which could last up to five years.  The spots also debunked some of the myths associated with malaria.


He said that the goal of the campaign was to control malaria and to ultimately eradicate it, which was the aim of the sixth Millennium Development Goal.  That could be done in his lifetime with enough dedicated political and financial resources.  For now, however, some 30 children died from malaria every 15 minutes.  More than one million people died of malaria every year, and approximately 350 million to half a billion were infected with the disease.


Malaria was creeping into areas that had not seen the disease in decades, he said.  With global warming, anopheles mosquitoes were going north into areas like Italy, Spain and the southern United States, which had not seen malaria for a very long time.  Thus, the time was now for concerted action to stop the spread.  Hopefully, the public service announcements would assist organizations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which distributed millions of bed nets. 


He explained that the announcements were available to everybody free of charge.  Organizations needing them should write to the campaign website at malairiacampiagn.ca.  The goal was to have the public service announcements seen in at least 25 countries by at least 100 million people within the next 12 months and in 100 countries by 250 million people in the next two to three years.


The campaign was an international co-production, he said.  Most of the production had been done in Canada, from concept to putting it down to tape, but there was an international component in that the first drafts of the scripts were written in South Africa and the animation was done in Holland.  The concept direction, audio and post production, video post production and the recording of all 40 languages had been done in Canada.  The campaign was a largely volunteer effort, although there had been some financial assistance from the Canadian Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross.  That assistance had not come close to funding the series, which had been financed by a large number of volunteers who had devoted their time and talent towards the series’ creation.


Approximately 80 people had been involved in creating the series and more than 200 in adapting and voicing the spots in the 40 languages, he explained.  The campaign did not translate the scripts, but adapted them via a painstakingly slow process, which even involved native speakers from the countries concerned.  The public service announcements used humour to make a serious point.  They also used animation, rather than live action, as that was easily adaptable around the world.  For example, the campaign used two funny female anopheles mosquitoes that talked and acted like humans.


The public service announcements -– ranging in length from 30 seconds to one minute -- were already available in 20 languages, giving them a reach of just under three billion people, he stated.  A large selection of spots was being provided to broadcasters and non-governmental organizations, which could play them individually or pick spots tailored to specific audiences at particular times. 


Responding to questions, he said that reaching the desired target groups would build on previous mass education programmes.  Three years ago, for example, he had launched a series of animated public service announcements on AIDS prevention.  Those public service announcements had been seen by over a billion people and, as of the AIDS Day last year, they were in use in more than 100 countries.  To reach places that did not have televisions or DVDs, a wide variety of mechanisms would be used, including giving the announcements to non-governmental organizations, so that when they handed out bed nets, they could play them.  The five audio animated spots would also be made available to radio stations in those areas.  Every mechanism possible would be used, including playing the messages in soccer stadiums during matches, on trains, in buses, at cinemas before movies started, on mobile resource units, in schools and in hospitals.


Duplicating the public service announcements required permission, but the project would readily grant requests for duplication, he replied to another question.  There were no broadcast or use restrictions, and messages could be played in part or in whole as many times as the users wished.


He added that the animated characters were female as only the female anopheles mosquito carried the malaria parasite and they only bit at night.


To another question, he said that the Canadian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross had provided $75,000 towards thetotal estimated cost of the $500,000 campaign.  He and his colleagues in Canada and Holland had donated the rest, but funds were still being sought, especially for the adaptation in different languages, as well as for distribution.  He was quite confident, however, that the financing would be received.


Several of the public service announcements were played for the correspondents during the press conference. 


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For information media • not an official record