Newsmaker – Life-saving Princess of Africa honoured

2012-01-28 19:15

She has charmed millions of people throughout the world with her music.

Her songs about MaDlamini’s potent brew, umqombothi, and the beauty of her motherland have earned her the title Princess of Africa.

But she’s not the sort of princess who sits and does nothing while her motherland is afflicted by disease.

Now she has been rewarded for her efforts in the fight against malaria and for promoting the rights of women and children.

This is songstress Yvonne Chaka Chaka. The Princess of Africa this week became the first African woman to receive the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award.

Chaka Chaka (45) was honoured for her role as a goodwill ambassador for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and Unicef.

She received the prestigious award, which was established in 1995 to honour artists who use their talents to
improve the state of the world, in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

The award was presented during the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting by Hilde Schwab, co-founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.

Last year Chaka Chaka was honoured at New York City’s Explorer’s Club in the US, also for her work in the fight against malaria.

Chaka Chaka’s work includes campaigning for medication and bed nets for people living in areas afflicted by malaria.

She has also served as an ambassador for the University of South Africa (Unisa), City of Johannesburg Tourism and Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign. And she is an honorary colonel in the South Africa Air Force.

“I have long believed that songs that promote understanding speak much louder than the bullet shots I heard growing up in Soweto,” Chaka Chaka said in her acceptance speech.

“Growing up in South Africa during apartheid, I lived with inequality in all aspects of my life. My experiences as a child taught me that giving people their dignity is vital to building kinder, fairer societies which are not only possible but critical to creating a safe and secure world,” she said.

The Princess of Africa received warm wishes from President Jacob Zuma.

“In many respects, Yvonne Chaka Chaka has been a true ambassador for our country, its culture and people.
“We applaud the wonderful work she does promoting quality healthcare and other social development issues on the continent. We are immensely proud that the World Economic Forum has today recognised her in this way,” Zuma said from Davos.

“We hope this award will encourage more people at home and abroad to work together with governments to address matters affecting women and children especially,” he said.

Chaka Chaka said her involvement in the fight against malaria had made her realise “that there is a global apartheid in accessing health services”.

“Men, women and children are dying unnecessarily of preventable and treatable diseases. They have almost no access to basic health services and are trapped in a cycle of poverty and sickness.

“Many communities in Africa and other poor regions of the world are tragically missing out on recent medical advances,” she said.

Chaka Chaka said new health initiatives in the form of treatment and expanded coverage of remote areas had prevented more than 1.1 million malaria deaths in the past decade.

According to UN statistics, 90%of the total deaths resulting from malaria occur in Africa, mostly among children.

There are at least 300 million acute cases of malaria each year globally, resulting in more than a million deaths. It kills 3 000 people in Africa every day.

Malaria is Africa’s leading cause of under-five mortality (20%) and constitutes 10% of the continent’s overall
disease burden.

It accounts for 40% of public health expenditure, 30 to 50% of inpatient admissions, and up to 50% of outpatient visits in areas with high malaria transmission.

But Chaka Chaka said the tide could be turned by working together.

“Amazing things are possible when Africa’s leaders work in partnership with their local communities and are supported by the rest of the world.

“I believe we can bring effective healthcare to Africa’s poor. We need to end this social injustice to build a safe, stable, healthy and secure world.”

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