So far in 2011, Sumitomo Chemical has supported a number of initiatives — including an international social action campaign run by The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Called Faiths Act for World Malaria Day 2011, the campaign featured photos of people around the world wearing Faiths Act ribbons to in recognition of the need to maintain awareness of malaria and its impact on the world. Some 19,000 people of faith from over 40 countries – from Nigeria to New Zealand – took part to raise awareness about this devastating disease, and as a result have led to the protection of another 2,000 lives.
The Faiths Act for World Malaria Day campaign was simple: participants were asked to submit a photograph featuring people wearing awareness raising Faiths Act ribbons. For every 10 people pictured Sumitomo Chemical agreed to donate an Olyset Net to families in Tanzania and Ghana. So, this campaign not only raised a huge amount of awareness, the pictures translated into actual bed nets for people who need them most. Almost 2,000 bed nets were sent to Africa – where malaria accounts for up to a third of deaths in children under five years old. That’s almost 2,000 families protected from malaria. On top of this, over £10,000 was raised by volunteers to support various malaria charities.
Faiths Act is a global movement of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s which aims to mobilise different faith communities to work together against deaths from malaria and demonstrate faith as a force for good. Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said:
“For the first time this generation has the opportunity to do two astonishing things; to work together alongside those of other faiths from all corners of the world and to meet one of the world’s greatest global health challenges. We asked people of all faiths to rise to this challenge and they embraced it with more enthusiasm than we could have ever hoped for.”
This campaign was embraced from the bottom up: at a grassroots level and by celebrities, faith leaders and government officials. In Lahore, Pakistan secondary school students marched through a slum area, where education and literacy levels are low but incidence of malaria high, wearing Faiths Act ribbons. As they walked through the streets they stopped at homes to give simple, practical advice to families on how to prevent the disease. In Birmingham, UK, a six year old schoolgirl took it upon herself to draw pictures about malaria and post them through the letters boxes of her neighbours in to educate them about the disease and how they could get involved in the campaign.
In Sierra Leone the Tony Blair Faith Foundation brought together religious leaders and health officials to work on ways to better integrate faith leaders into national malaria prevention and health messaging plans as part of the campaign.
Faith leaders have a pivotal role to play in health messaging as they have an unparalleled reach and authority within communities, particularly rural communities, where malaria is most rampant.