ABIDJAN (Reuters) - British actor Idris Elba and a host of international football stars launched a public awareness campaign on Wednesday to help halt West Africa’s Ebola epidemic and recognize the health workers fighting the deadly disease.
The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed more than 6,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries worst affected by the epidemic.
The Africa United campaign (www.weareafricaunited.org), unveiled ahead of the African Cup of Nations draw in Equatorial Guinea's capital Malabo on Wednesday, broadcasts information on the disease and how to stop it spreading in French, English, Krio and other local languages.
Messages will be sent out to the three countries and their neighbors via television, radio, billboards and phone text messages, said organizers.
“For me the battle against Ebola is a personal one,” said Elba, whose parents are from Sierra Leone and Ghana.
“To see those amazing countries in West Africa where my father grew up and my parents married being ravaged by this disease is painful and horrific,” said Elba, who came to fame in TV series ‘The Wire’ and played Nelson Mandela in the biopic ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’.
In one of the campaign’s spots, Elba plays a football coach giving a halftime talk during West Africa’s “life or death” match against Ebola and passing on tips on how to spot the disease and prevent new infections.
In another, footballers Yaya Touré, Carlton Cole, Kei Kamara, Patrick Vieira, Fabrice Muamba and Andros Townsend pay homage to the work of frontline healthcare workers by wearing their names on the backs of their jerseys.
Manchester City midfielder Touré hails from Ivory Coast, which shares borders with three countries hit by the disease but has so far been spared.
“I could not sit back without doing something to help fight Ebola,” he said. “(The campaign) pays tribute to the many, many African heroes who are in the villages, towns and cities using their skills, resourcefulness and intelligence to battle Ebola.”
The campaign was backed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation.
Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Andrew Heavens