A game of bed net ball helps participants understand how bed nets keep people safe from mosquitoes.

April 25 was World Malaria Day, when we celebrate our global successes in the fight against malaria. However, according to the World Health Organization, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria globally in 2019—with 94% of malaria cases and deaths occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa. Grassroot Soccer’s life-saving curriculum provides interactive lessons about malaria, how it is spread, how to prevent it, and the importance of treatment.

Grassroot Soccer (GRS) is proud to work together with the ExxonMobil Foundation, spanning a ten-year partnership, to help end malaria in the communities where we work and promote young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). In 2011, GRS teamed up with the ExxonMobil Foundation to develop a soccer-based malaria prevention curriculum to be implemented by local organizations. With the support of ExxonMobil, in 2020 GRS directly partnered with five organizations in Equatorial Guinea (Biriaelat), Mozambique (Tchova Tchova Programas de Comunicação- TTPC), Nigeria (Youth Empowerment Development Initiative-YEDI), and Papua New Guinea (Southstar Sports Development Association-SSDA; and the Young Women’s Christian Association-YWCA) to implement SKILLZ health programs. Powered by the 3C’s approach, SKILLZ programs achieve health impact across the 3A’s by building young people’s assets (health knowledge and confidence to use it), facilitating access to health services, and promoting adherence to treatment and healthy behaviors. SKILLZ programs are customized for age, gender, vulnerability status, health areas, setting, and local context. In the past ten years, including previous work similarly implemented in South Africa and Tanzania, GRS has reached over 314,300 young people in partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation.

Community malaria testing event

In 2020, recognizing the urgent health needs young people were facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, GRS rapidly adapted SKILLZ programs for remote delivery (including radio shows, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp) and developed an open-source SKILLZ COVID-19 Response curriculum with COVID-19 prevention and education activities. GRS worked closely with partners to implement this curriculum within all GRS programs worldwide, including all ExxonMobil-supported programs. ExxonMobil support of SKILLZ programming was integral in ensuring over 29,200 youth continued to have access to key malaria and SRHR messaging and support networks during restrictive lockdowns, while also serving as a unique approach to share COVID-19 prevention key messages with youth and their communities.

PPE keeps YEDI staff safe during community outreach.

Thanks to ExxonMobil Foundation’s support, Grassroot Soccer and Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI)—a local adolescent health organization in Nigeria—have partnered for the past decade to reach young people with both the knowledge and confidence to protect themselves against malaria, and ensure they have access to bed nets in order to keep themselves safe. In 2020, YEDI rapidly adapted to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, utilizing a broad range of platforms and virtual innovations to continue reaching youth. YEDI Coaches and government health experts utilized radio, TV talks, social media platforms, and webinars to engage youth in dialogue around malaria, SRHR, and HIV prevention. Targeted community outreach, in collaboration with local stakeholders, provided critical malaria and SRHR information while supporting the distribution of mosquito nets, food packs, and health packs containing COVID-19 prevention materials and essential vitamins. Leveraging SKILLZ workbooks, comic books, and magazines, YEDI reinforced key messages on HIV, malaria, and SRHR prevention. Through innovation and partnership, YEDI and GRS continued to engage communities on malaria prevention and ensured young people received life saving health information and services during the pandemic.

“YEDI has provided a platform for me to be a positive influencer. Joining the SKILLZ Girl Team and becoming a SKILLZ Girl Coach has enabled me to reach more teenage girls, a journey I will forever continue to make.”
– Coach Anyasodor Maria Okwuchi

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ExxonMobil Malaria Initiative – a program that has contributed to meaningful advances in fighting the disease. Grassroot Soccer is very thankful for their continued support. To learn more about ExxonMobil’s work, please click here.