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David Beckham voices appeal to end malaria - in Swahili and Yoruba

by Hanna Resch | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 9 April 2019 13:27 GMT

Mar 2, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; David Beckham acknowleges the crowd during LA Galaxy ring of honor ceremony at Dignity Health Sports Park. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

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Malaria kills about 435,000 people a year, largely in Africa, with children aged under five making up 61 percent of deaths

By Hanna Resch

LONDON, April 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British soccer star David Beckham launched a global video appeal on Tuesday to end malaria in which he appeared to be speaking nine languages including Swahili and Yoruba - but aided by artificial intelligence.

In the 55-second video, Beckham fronts both male and female voices, including malaria survivors and doctors, and calls on people to add their voices to an online petition to get the attention of world leaders ahead of a key conference in October.

The charity behind the campaign, Malaria No More UK, said the film makers used video synthesis technology to make it look like the retired athlete was speaking in eight other languages.

"Malaria isn't just any disease. It's the deadliest disease there's ever been," Beckham said in English before switching to Spanish, Arabic, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, which is spoken in Rwanda, and the Nigerian language Yoruba.

A spokeswoman from Malaria No More UK said each language represented a part of the world affected by malaria.

Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show malaria kills about 435,000 people a year, largely in Africa, with children aged under five making up 61 percent of deaths.

In its latest World Malaria report, the WHO estimated there were 219 million cases of malaria in 2017, up from 217 million in 2016, and warned the global response had stalled despite a United Nations' global goal to end the disease by 2030.

The former England soccer captain, who retired from the game in 2013, has supported Malaria No More UK for over a decade and is a founding member of the group's leadership council as well as an ambassador for the U.N. children's agency UNICEF.

He called for action before the Global Fund conference in Paris in October that will aim to raise at least $14 billion from governments, companies and philanthropists to fight malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis.

"It's unacceptable that malaria still kills a child every two minutes so please add your voice to the petition," Beckham, 43, said in a statement. (Reporting by Hanna Resch, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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