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April 25, 2007
Toronto becomes first Canadian City to declare Africa Malaria Day as Belinda Stronach, Rick Mercer and Mayor David Miller Spread the Net at Toronto City Hall
The following news release was issued by "Spread the Net."

Hayley Wickenheiser, Seamus O’Regan, Ray Zahab and Glen Pearson join Mayor Miller as Spread the Net Ambassadors

Mayor David Miller proclaimed today, April 25, 2007, as Africa Malaria Day in Toronto. Mayor Miller is the first Canadian mayor to champion Africa Malaria Day, recognizing the severity of the malaria pandemic that is the leading killer of children under five years old in Africa. Africa Malaria Day is commemorated on 25 April every year as a day set aside by African governments committed to the fight against malaria. The United States and several European countries also use this day to demonstrate their solidarity, through events and activities, in fighting the deadly disease.

Joined by Spread the Net Co-Founders Belinda Stronach and Rick Mercer, Mayor Miller was also named A Spread the Net Ambassador along with Seamus O’Regan, Co-host of CTV’s Canada AM; Ray Zahab, Canadian extreme marathoner and motivational speaker; Hayley Wickenheiser, hockey superstar and Captain, Team Canada women’s hockey and Glen Pearson, MP London North Centre. Spread the Net Ambassadors will help spread the word about how Canadians can contribute to

“I’m proud to declare today that Toronto is the first Canadian city to recognize Africa Malaria Day, we have so many of our citizens who have had personal experiences with a disease that is also ravaging the African continent, and it’s time to wake up others in Canada about the need to help protect children in Africa from dying of malaria,” said Mayor David Miller. ”Spread the Net is an excellent way for Torontonians to lead the charge and I am very pleased to be a Spread the Net Ambassador on their behalf.”

Co-founded by Belinda Stronach and Rick Mercer, Spread the Net is a grassroots campaign in partnership with UNICEF Canada to raise the funds to buy 500,000 anti-malarial mosquito bed nets at $10 each for children in Liberia and Rwanda over the next two years. Malaria is the largest killer of children under five in Africa, with 3,000 children dying daily of the disease. One insecticide treated bed net can protect up to five children for up to five years.

“We are delighted that Mayor Miller and the City of Toronto have joined us in our fight against malaria - it’s time we stepped up,” said Belinda Stronach, Co-Founder of Spread the Net. “Malaria is a global crisis - today we recognized Africa Malaria Day, but for millions of children in Africa, every day is malaria day. With people like Seamus O’Regan, Hayley Wickenheiser, Ray Zahab, Glen Pearson and Mayor Miller helping us to encourage individual Canadians, community groups and businesses to buy one bed net or one thousand bed nets - we can deliver bed nets sooner and to more children in need”.

“The death toll from malaria in Africa is devastating, particularly for children - 3,000 every day die of the disease”, said Seamus O’Regan, Co-host of CTV’s Canada AM. “Through Spread the Net, Canadians have an opportunity to make a difference by helping to purchase bed nets that can save lives in Africa.”

“When I ran across the Sahara Desert this winter, I saw first-hand the beauty of Africa and its people, but also the ravages malaria”, said Ray Zahab, extreme marathoner and Spread the Net Ambassador. “It will take time to eradicate malaria in Africa, but anti-malarial bed nets are a simple, effective, immediate solution to stopping the disease.”

“I didn’t hesitate when asked to join Spread the Net,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, Captain, Team Canada women’s hockey team. “As Canadians, and as parents, we have a responsibility to help to prevent people dying from devastating diseases like malaria. A $10 bed net is a simple way to have an enormous impact on the life of a child.”

“When I have been sick with malaria, the treatment in Canada is right there for me. It isn’t in Africa and it’s the leading cause of death in children under five years old, killing one million per year,” said Glen Pearson, MP London North Centre. “With the simple technology of insecticide-treated bed nets, we can help protect them from this deadly disease.”

The use of insecticide-treated nets has been shown to reduce under-five mortality from all causes by up to 25 per cent. However, at the end of 2004, fewer than five per cent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa were sleeping under an insecticide-treated net.

“UNICEF is the world’s largest procurer and deliverer of insecticide-treated nets,” said Nigel Fisher, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. “It’s a proven technology that we know works to save the lives of children.”

“Here’s the reality: there are millions of mosquitoes out there that are killing millions of kids. But we know that bed nets can stop them getting bitten. So we’re going to be telling as many people as we can that $10 bucks will buy a bed net that can save the lives of kids in Rwanda and Liberia”, said Rick Mercer, Co-Founder of Spread the Net. “And now that we’ve told you about it, we want you to hurry up and tell your friends to go to It’s too important to wait”.

Belinda Stronach and Rick Mercer and UNICEF Canada, also announced today CTVglobemedia, Air Canada Kids’ Horizons and TAXI Canada Inc. as founding partners for Spread the Net. For more information on Spread the Net’s founding partners, visit

Spread the Net is an innovative partnership with UNICEF Canada with the goal of helping prevent the spread of malaria among African children by raising the funds to purchase 500,000 insecticide-treated bed nets at the cost of $10 each over the next two years. Donations can be made at Send us your pictures and stories about what you and your friends are doing to help Spread the Net.

Spread the Net Ambassadors will help tell the story about the impact of malaria on African children and how there is a simple, effective way that Canadians from school children to seniors to sports teams, employees and church groups - all walks of life can make a difference. One net. Ten bucks. Save lives.

Help spread the word and Spread the Net.

For more information on Spread the Net visit

View the the Mayor's Proclamation.

For further information and to arrange media interviews:
Susan Smith, Bluesky Strategy Group, (cell) 613-371-0624,
Michael Bociurkiw, UNICEF Canada, 647-203-7455,
Stuart Green, Deputy Communications Director, Office of the Mayor of Toronto, 416-338-7119



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