8 October 2009 A United Nations-backed campaign to raise awareness about malaria – which claims over 1 million lives annually – has a starring role on the season premiere of the hit United States television comedy, “Ugly Betty.”
Airing on 16 October, the two-hour special will centre around the efforts by the main character, Betty Suarez, a young woman recently promoted to become the features editor at a fashion magazine, to draw attention to the “Nothing But Nets” scheme.
Under that campaign, the UN Foundation (UNF) seeks to curb the spread of malaria by providing insecticide-treated bed nets, each costing $10, to communities in greatest need.
Malaria infects over 500 million people worldwide annually, killing more than 1 million people, the vast majority of whom are African children.
UNF is excited that the television show “chose to spread the buzz” about its campaign, said Elizabeth McKee Gore, the organization’s Executive Director of Global Partnerships and “Nothing But Nets.”
To date, the campaign, which started in 2006, has resulted in the distribution of more than 2 million bed nets in Africa, she said, voicing hope that its appearance on the programme will generate more interest in preventing the spread of malaria.
“Our storyline resonated with every member of our cast and crew,” said Richard Heusfrom, the show’s Executive Director.
One of the stars of “Ugly Betty,” Ana Ortiz, who recently gave birth to her first child, said that being a new mother has opened her eyes to the need to help vulnerable children around the world.
Highlighting the need to “think globally and act globally,” Ms. Ortiz said at a press conference, also attended by her co-stars Judith Light and Tony Plana, that “any publicity we can bring to [the campaign] is wonderful.”
“Ugly Betty” is the first-ever television comedy series to be filmed at the UN, and its shooting came about through the world body’s Creative Community Outreach Initiative (CCOI).
The scheme seeks to serve as a liaison between the UN and producers, directors, writers and new media professionals. “Television and film are power media by which new audiences can learn about global issues,” said Under-Secretary-General Kiyotaka Akasaka.
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