"If the United States wants to win a war, it ought to be the war on malaria," quips Africa's best-known singing star Youssou N'Dour.
On a US tour, the Senegalese superstar, who played at the Kennedy Center here Monday, takes time out to throw the spotlight over to malaria, which in Africa alone kills almost a million children a year.
AdvertisementThe world music sensation is in North America through December 10 with stops in Philadelphia, New York, Montreal, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Michigan and Colorado.
N'Dour, who has been a Unicef goodwill ambassador since 2004, also has been a committed campaigner against malaria.
He works with the Global Fund to fight Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis to fight the illness which saps 40 percent of the spending of hard-hit countries, particularly those in Africa.
Every year, malaria costs developing countries 12 billion dollars in lost productivity. The Global Fund is bankrolled by about 30 countries and the Gates Foundation.
"The problem with malaria, is that many Africans, even among the leaders, don't take the problem seriously. We have done some educational work that now is starting to bear fruit," N'Dour told AFP after a White House meeting with aides to First Lady Laura Bush, who works on the US campaign against malaria.
"We needed a voice of some authority to say, 'OK, I live in Africa and I am affected, I am taking part in the debate,'" explained N'Dour who has always lived in his hometown of Dakar.
The singer wants to convene an informational meeting to try to get traditional African "communicators," such as wandering musician-poets who sometimes have great followings, involved in the fight against malaria.
Some of these people "locally are more listened to than the president of a country," he explained, "so I'd like to get them, in areas hard hit (by malaria), committed to educating people."
He said he would like those traditional local leaders to be able to bring what they know to governments and international groups who can make a difference against malaria.
"I say, thanks to the Congress, thanks to the White House, thanks to France, thanks to the Group of Eight (countries), but it's not enough.
"You have to do more, because these are one million children who die," N'Dour said.
Expanding the use of locally made, low-cost mosquito netting dipped in mosquito repellent is one key steps to better protect pregnant women and children, who are at greatest risk from the mosquito-borne illness.