Nothing But Nets went to one of its favorite cities this week, Chicago, to announce an emergency appeal to help refugees in South Sudan and to kick-off a month-long series of events leading up to World Malaria Day on April 25. The situation in South Sudan is dire – over 130,000 refugees have fled their homes near the Sudan / South Sudan border, with another 75,000 expected this year, to escape violence that has been escalating since South Sudan won its independence last year. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is providing these families food, water and shelter, and Nothing But Nets is rallying its supporters to help send bed nets to South Sudan, where malaria is the leading killer of children under the age of 5.
We kicked off the day in Chicago with a live telephone press conference announcing the South Sudan appeal with a great combination of partners and Champions who represent so much of what is great about Nothing But Nets. On the call, we were joined by Mark Kirya, a program officer for UNHCR on the ground in South Sudan, basketball stars Stephen Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and Ruth Riley of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, and Eileen LeCario, Vice President of Broadway In Chicago, which is a Nederlander production.
Mark spoke about the emergency situation in South Sudan and told stories of mothers who have arrived at refugee camps sick with exhaustion, malnutrition, dehydration, and malaria, unable to take care of their children any longer. He explained that malaria rates have risen in South Sudan in the last year, and urged Americans to send nets to help save lives to protect these families from this deadly disease.
Stephen was welcomed as the newest Nothing But Nets Champion and he promised to do everything he could to rally his fans to support this important appeal. As a soon-to-be father, Stephen is going to join the campaign on a trip to these camps in May to help distribute nets and to witness the impact that malaria has on the children and their families firsthand. Ruth, a Nothing But Nets Champion for five years, spoke about her multiple trips to Africa with Nothing But Nets and the life-changing effect these nets have on communities. She remembered how thankful and happy the mothers were to receive nets, knowing that it that they could keep their children safe at night.
Eileen was representing The Nederlander Organization, the newest Nothing But Nets partner. Nederlander is bringing Nothing But Nets to many of its 18 theatres on Broadway and across the country over the next month to spread the buzz to hundreds of thousands of audience-members, and urge them to join us in saving lives in South Sudan. Kicking off in Chicago, Nothing But Nets will also be engaging audiences in Nederlander Theatres in Los Angeles, Durham, Tucson, San Diego, San Jose, and New York, where the month-long effort will culminate with a special fundraising appeal on Broadway with Disney’s The Lion King on World Malaria Day.
In the evening, Broadway In Chicago played host to Nothing But Nets for the Chicago premiere of “Fela!,” an extraordinary musical about an extraordinary African musician – Fela Kuti of Nigeria. After a terrific reception attended by 25 Nothing But Nets partners, Champions, and supporters, we were treated to an amazing performance (go see this play if you haven’t already!). To make the day perfect, the actor playing Fela Kuti came onstage at curtain call and urged everyone in the audience to send nets and save lives to help refugees in South Sudan.
That’s what this campaign is all about – engaging groups of people all over the globe to help us send nets and save lives to help solve one of the world’s biggest problems: malaria. Nowhere in the world is that problem as big as it is in South Sudan. That’s why I hope you’ll join us in helping South Sudan today. We’re not going to rest until we send 100,000 nets and ensure that all refugees in South Sudan can sleep under a life-saving net.