One Net One Pill One Life
These were the words of Forest Whitaker (academy award winner for his leading role in The Last King of Scotland) on tonight’s inspired 2nd annual two and half hour Idol Gives Back show which raised funds for six causes. Forest was the ambassador for Malaria No More, and definitely gave an emotional appeal for people to call in and donate money.
Earlier today I was lucky enough to be on a conference call with the medical director (Steven Phillips) for ExxonMobil’s foundation which is a major supporter and funder of the malaria component of tonight’s American Idol show. Phillips traveled to Angola twice this year, once with American Idol contestants and winners and the second time with Forest Whitaker to get them involved in combating malaria. I was joined on the call by Bill Brieger, professor at Hopkins and an expert in malaria, definitely check out his blog – Malaria Matters. Rob Katz of NextBillion and the Acumen Fund fame was the other “blogger” on the call.
According to Phillips, ExxonMobil teamed up with American Idol because they are the most watched TV show with over 30 million viewers and because their first experimental show last year was a huge hit. Exxon is reaching out to of course let their work be known and also because he feels that “one of major issues with malaria is that it (malaria) had historically been among one of most neglected diseases.” Their funding breakdown is: 25% for advocacy, 10% for R&D (e.g partnerships with MVI, MMV, others), and 65% for disease control (goes to African NGOs or iNGOs).
The Idol show had a blockbuster lineup, some of the celebs included: Bono, Alicia Keys, Heart, Brad Pitt, Robin Williams (who was beyond awful), Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and many others. One of the highlights was Gordon Brown, prime minister of the UK, making an appearance to announce the equivalent of $200 million in funding for bednets. The three presidential candidates were also supposed to make an appearance, but perhaps this got cut. For a great recap of the show check out Kristin’s post.
Last year the show raised $76 million, it will be interesting to see what happens after tonight. Despite various criticisms and those much more cynical than I, credit has to be given to all the corporate sponsors for reaching out… I’ll post more on this if I get a chance this weekend.