A Nigerian football legend said on Friday that politicians and religious leaders are not always the best role models in Africa's anti-malaria battle.
Nigeria's former goalkeeper Emmanuel Babayaro, himself a victim of malaria on several occasions, said the focus should turn away from pitching politicians or religious leaders to other influential individuals.
Advertisement"Some government and religious leaders have disappointed people in the past," he said ahead of World Malaria Day on April 25.
Major constraints in fighting the endemic disease have been poverty, ignorance and a dilapidated health infrastructure.
With the popularity of football in Africa, Babayaro said most of the top African players have had poor backgrounds and relate easily to the grassroots in their communities.
Africa this year hosts its first football World Cup in South Africa.
Babayaro also blamed poor sanitation in most parts of Africa for malaria, a disease spread by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed in pools of water.
"I think the focus should go beyond mosquito nets, drugs ... to sensitise people on the need to keep their environment clean," said Babayaro.
"Our environments are too dirty, it's unfortunately so," he said.
Nigeria, as with many west African countries, has open drainage gutters criss-crossing the streets of its cities and villages, conducive breeding ground for mosquitoes.
One of the latest concerns has been vector resistance to chemicals used to control them.
Around 97 percent of the 150 million Nigerians are at risk of infection, says Roll Back Malaria, a global initiative whose goal is to eradicate the disease.
Some 75 million Nigerians, or half of the population, get infected with malaria at least once a year while children under the age of five (around 24 million) suffer up to four bouts each year.