David Beckham issues malaria plea in Hindi

In a video message, Beckham urges viewers to “Speak up and say ‘Malaria must die’

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 10.04.19, 1:27 AM
  • Updated 10.04.19, 1:32 AM
  • 2 mins read
Former English footballer David Beckham (AP file picture)

Villagers in the deepest interior of India might be puzzled to discover David Beckham uttering a few words in perfect Hindi — but, no, he is not pitching into India’s general election.

Instead, the celebrity footballer is spearheading a global anti-malaria campaign in what is said to be “the world’s first voice petition”. Beckham does indeed have many talents but being able to speak fluent Hindi is not one of them.

A 60-second video, with Beckham’s “Malaria Must Die, So Millions can Live” message made with the help of Artificial Intelligence, was commissioned by the charity, Malaria No More UK.

The 43-year-old, who is a founding member of the charity’s leadership council, said: “I have been working with Malaria No More UK for over 10 years and to be a part of this campaign and to help share some of the real stories behind malaria is really important to me.”

People in India and other areas of the world, where malaria is still a killer disease, will be urged to record an online appeal to world leaders meeting in London later this year — “We just need more action”.

“It’s just a new way of delivering a petition,” a spokeswoman for the charity told The Telegraph as it launched its latest campaign in London on Tuesday. “The Hindi voice is spoken by Subhranil Banerjee,” she added.

“He grew up in India and witnessed first-hand the dangerous effects of mosquitoes on people’s lives. He has grown up seeing family and friends getting malaria. His sister got dengue and nearly died a few years ago. So he is very passionate about eliminating the mosquito borne disease.”

In the film, Beckham begins by speaking in English before he is given the voices of men and women from around the world — including malaria survivors and doctors fighting the disease. He “speaks” not only in Hindi but also in Spanish, Kinyarwanda, Arabic, French, Mandarin, Kiswahili and Yoruba.

“In a new film produced by Ridley Scott Associates Amsterdam and R/GA London and using the latest AI tech developed by Synthesia, long-term malaria ambassador David Beckham speaks nine languages to get world leaders to listen to our message to end this deadly disease in the run-up to the Global Fund conference to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria this October,” the charity explained.

Last year Beckham went beyond the call of duty when he was filmed in a glass box appearing to be under attack from thousands of buzzing mosquitoes. It looked very effective because he kept scratching his arms but in reality he was protected from the real live mosquitoes, supplied by a generous laboratory, by a glass sheet.

The charity points out that “malaria tragically claims 445,000 lives a year and over half of these deaths occur in Commonwealth countries. Each death is needless as malaria is totally preventable and costs less than a cup of tea to treat.”

In the film, Beckham, himself the father of four children, tells viewers: “Malaria isn’t just any disease. It’s the deadliest disease that’s ever been.”

He is then given the voices of men and women from around the world as it is revealed the disease has “killed half the people who ever lived” and “still kills a child every two minutes”.

The voices continue: “But we can end it. We have the knowledge. We have the opportunity. We just need more action. We need to make the world’s leaders pay attention. So we’re launching the world’s first voice petition. Your voice can help end malaria.”

The video finishes with Beckham urging viewers: “Speak up and say ‘Malaria must die’. One voice can be powerful but all of our voices together, then they will have to listen.”