Global perspective Human stories

More sports stars team up with UN agencies to fight poverty, HIV/AIDS

More sports stars team up with UN agencies to fight poverty, HIV/AIDS

Maria Sharapova and LeBron James
More renowned sports figures are teaming up with United Nations agencies to help fight poverty, hunger and disease.

Russian tennis champion Maria Sharapova, named a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) earlier this year, has recruited United States basketball star LeBron James to “Team Up Against Poverty” on a new UNDP advertisement to garner support for achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals, which seek to slash poverty, hunger, infant and maternal mortality and a host of other ills by 2015.

The awareness and fund-raising advertisements features celebrities from the world of sports, arts, fashion or business portrayed in teams of two by the world’s greatest professional photographers.

Fifty celebrities, including UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors and soccer greats Ronaldo and Zidane, have already agreed to participate and are undertaking specific anti-poverty activities.

The advertisements have been produced thanks to photographers, celebrities and advertising agencies who are donating their time and talent for the fight against poverty. Hundreds of newspapers and magazines have already published them worldwide.

World-renowned photographers who have joined the campaign include Dominique Issermann, Peter Lindbergh, Sarah Moon, Satoshi Saikusa, Christian Moser, Ferdinando Scianna, Javier Vallhonrat, the late Jeanloup Sieff and Sebastiao Salgado.

Meanwhile the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Futbol Club Barcelona have renewed the second year of their five year partnership with the handing over of this season’s team jersey bearing the UNICEF name and a pledge to give a further 1.5 million Euros for children.

In 2006 FC Barcelona donated 1.5 million Euros to UNICEF. These funds were used to help children affected by AIDS in Swaziland, the country with the highest estimated HIV rate in the world.

“The assistance from Barcelona is a timely investment in the national response to the HIV epidemic,” UNICEF Representative in Swaziland Jama Gulaid said. “It is already touching the lives of Swazi children in multiple ways - improving access to prevention, rapid diagnosis of HIV, live-skills education through sports, birth registration, water, and sanitation.”

UNICEF in Swaziland used the funds to acquire laboratory equipment for testing blood samples and drugs for prophylaxis and anti-retroviral treatment. A community mobilization campaign was launched to improve use of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission services and 23 new Neighbourhood Care Points were established to help protect more than 1,000 orphans and vulnerable children.

The Care Points are like a home away from home where children receive psycho–social support, nutrition, non-formal education and basic health care. Additionally, they make orphaned and vulnerable children visible by creating awareness about their needs among community members, service providers, national leaders, civil society and international donors.

The funds have also been used to train 885 community members as care givers to work in the Care Points. Some 5,000 school children have also had training in Life-skills Education and Sports and taken part in sports activities in 68 schools.

The aid from these athletes is but the latest in a whole series of collaboration between UN agencies and world sport, which has seen the Cricket World Cup batting against HIV/AIDS, the European Swimming League in “a race against time” to prevent deaths from unclean water, and similar initiatives with the International Rugby Board, American football stars, marathon runners and Formula One auto racers.