In 2006, not long after I started writing UN Dispatch, someone from the UN Foundation called me up to tell me about a new project of theirs called Nothing But Nets. They sent me this quirky column by the Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly which sought to enlist sports fans and athletes in the fight against malaria by spreading the world about life saving bed nets. (After all, nets are a big part of sports!)
That was five years ago. Now, half a decade later, Nothing But Nets is firmly established as a leading grassroots global health movement that empowers communities in the United States to take a stand against malaria world-wide.
To mark its five year anniversary, Nothing But Nets announced a new partnership yesterday at the Minskoff Theater in Times Square which is home to Disney’s The Lion King. Nothing But Nets, The Lion King and the Nederlander Organaziation are joining forces to raise awareness of millions of Broadway fans and theater goers about malaria and bed nets. Nothing But Nets Champions Dikembe Mutombo, Naomi Kodama, Nate Stafford were on hand for the celebrations.
These kinds of partnerships are important for an organization like Nothing But Nets, which operates more along a social movement model than traditional charity. Through partnerships with groups like NBA Cares, People of the United Methodist Church, the Boy Scouts among others, Nothing But Nets has deep reach into disparate communities of Americans who are all committed to taking action to end malaria. As Ted Turner, who was on hand for the celebrations, put it “you don’t have to be a billionaire to make a difference.”
That brings us to Nothing But Nets, which mobilizes groups to make micro-donations–$10 for one net—and then keeps them involved and excited about being part of a movement to end malaria. Over the past several years there has been reason to be excited. Malaria deaths are on the sharp decline; the price of treatment is going down thanks to interventions by groups like the Global Fund and UNITAID; and most recently there is promising news in the development of a malaria vaccine for children. “There is a whole new sense of momentum and confidence on malaria,” says UN Foundation President Senator Tim Wirth.
The data backs this up: According the World Health Organization’s most recent World Malaria Report “A massive scale-up in malaria control programmes between 2008 and 2010 has resulted in the provision of enough insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) to protect more than 578 million people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Over 4 million of those nets have been contributed to this cause via Nothing But Nets.