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Right To Play Canada – With the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games just around the corner, all eyes are on Brazil and the threat that the Zika virus poses not only to visiting athletes and fans, but also to the millions of people in Brazil and around the world who are at risk every day.

Zika is just one of the many mosquito-borne viruses that can be prevented through education and action. That’s why today, I want to talk to you about how we use play to empower children—and ultimately their families and communities—to protect themselves from illness and disease. 

Take malaria, for example. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.2 billion people are at risk of malaria globally. It’s a top cause of death for children under five, so prevention truly means saving lives.

In places like Touri Zoumé, Benin, however, the biggest challenge to prevention is unexpected. There, people commonly misuse mosquito nets to protect their gardens, instead of themselves.

For Right To Play Coach, Theodore Dangboessi, it’s a problem best solved by impassioned youth. He has enlisted local kids to become advocates and educators, but first they have to understand exactly how the nets work—and what better way to learn than through play!

Each week, Theodore uses games like ‘Under the Net’ to animate the threat of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Fun and engaging, the game teaches children about malaria, how it’s spread, and how to properly use nets for prevention.  

Read Theodore’s full story and learn how ‘Under the Net’ saves lives here.

Your support is what makes all of this fun possible, but how is it changing lives?

Last year, 91% of program participants in Benin correctly understood how malaria is transmitted, resulting in an increased use of mosquito nets. For non-participating children, that awareness was only 59%.

To put that into context, WHO estimates malaria prevention efforts since 2001 have saved 6.2 million lives worldwide. But the fact remains that more than 430,000 people died from it in 2015, so we still have a lot of work to do.

Together, we will continue to educate and empower children at risk of malaria and many other life-threatening diseases, because staying healthy is critical to a child’s development—whether they’re training to be an Olympian, or simply trying to attend school.

So, as you cheer on some of our country’s fastest, strongest and healthiest athletes at the 2016 Olympics, remember that sport and play aren’t just about medals—they’re also a powerful tool to help children around the world live healthier, happier lives.


Lori Smith
National Director, Right To Play Canada

P.S. Find more stories, statistics and examples of Right To Play games that help children and communities stay healthy on Shorthand Social.