CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - WHO’s battle to stamp out malaria

Client: World Health Organisation

Client: World Health Organisation

Campaign: Roll Back Malaria

PRTeam: Janice Muir Partnership

Timescale: January - April 2000

Budget: pounds 10,500

More than 300 million people contract malaria each year with 90 per cent

of deaths occurring in Africa. The annual death toll is over a million,

the majority of fatalities occurring among pregnant women and


In 1998 the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a strategy called

Roll Back Malaria, which aims to half the number of deaths in ten


On April 25 2000 African heads of government met at a summit in Nigeria

to formulate a plan to control the disease. Janice Muir Partnership was

brought in to promote awareness in the run up to the summit.


To communicate the extent of the damage wreaked by malaria to an

influential domestic audience, including politicians and government

leaders, the medical profession and potential corporate donors. To

influence African leaders to commit their governments to participate in

Roll Back Malaria; the UK government to continue its support for the

scheme; and the private sector to invest in malaria prevention and

control in Africa.

Strategy and Plan

WHO wanted to use the UK media’s international influence to kick-off

worldwide coverage through international broadcasters and UK news


Janice Muir conducted research into malaria with which to brief the

media, and as a result journalists were alerted to the likelihood of a

malaria outbreak in Mozambique due to flooding. They were also told

about measures being taken to prevent an epidemic. In March, reporters

were put in touch with WHO staff stationed there. The BBC ran a live

interview with a senior WHO official warning of a malaria outbreak and

drawing attention to Roll Back Malaria and the forthcoming summit.

WHO launched a new report, by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Harvard

University, at the summit which claimed that Africa’s GDP would be one

third higher if malaria had been eliminated 35 years ago.

Broadsheet newspapers, medical, scientific, business and international

affairs journals as well as international broadcasters were


A series of media briefings on the report’s findings were held two weeks

before the summit and WHO’s second-in-command, Dr David Nabarro, met

journalists in London.

Senior health, scientific and foreign affairs journalists were

approached with material for feature packages, including information on

people and doctors involved with malaria patients, and mosquito-net


Journalists were invited to the summit and key participants were lined

up to give live radio interviews with the BBC before, during and after

the event. Selected journalists were given the opportunity to visit

nearby villages where they could film and interview malaria patients and


Measurement and Evaluation

Janice Muir conducted its own media analysis.

Politicians in the UK were made aware of the plight of countries with

high numbers of malaria sufferers through UK national broadsheets,

foreign affairs radio and journals such as the Economist and the British

Medical Journal. Likewise medical professionals and potential corporate

sponsors were informed via their respective journals, which are

published and read internationally. African politicians were targeted

with coverage across the BBC World Service and World TV, and specialist

titles. Additionally, representatives of the WHO in Nigeria kept logs of

all coverage and presented these to politicians at the summit. It is

estimated that the campaign reached a total worldwide audience of more

than 300 million. Various African publications plan to publish articles

over the course of this year.


More than 50 African heads of state attended the Nigeria summit which

concluded with the leaders signing a declaration that commits them to

halving the number of malaria sufferers in Africa by 2010.

New investment from the public and private sector is yet to be

confirmed, however, the economic arguments for investing in malaria

prevention and treatment have received widespread media exposure.

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