From the "Mother of Waters" to the "River of Life"
The "Mother of Waters", as the Thai call her, brought them together: In 2005, German journalist Helge Bendl, 29, joined an expedition on the Mekong river to produce a documentary film and several feature articles about this venture. The expedition was led by Andy Leemann, 54, a boating expert from Switzerland, who had already explored the Amazon and the Orinoco with his company Rib Expedition & Adventure. In the footsteps of a French expedition that had searched for a river route to China 150 years ago, the expedition travelled more than 3,000 kilometers in inflatable boats from Vietnam to China. Its aim was to showcase the potential of the region for eco-tourism and the need to preserve the unique biodiversity along the riverbanks. Reports and images from this multimedia voyage were broadcasted daily on the internet and followed by a huge audience. One of Europe's leading publishing houses, Axel Springer, honoured Helge's coverage with the "Axel Springer Prize"; the news network CNN recognized his outstanding reporting with a "CNN Journalist Award".
Upon completion of the Mekong expedition, the two adventurers had become friends. A trip to the Zambezi - which Andy had visited 30 years earlier on his voyage with a Volkswagen van from Switzerland to South Africa - revealed that tropical diseases like the malaria that killed Livingstone as well as his wife Mary more than 100 years ago still prevail. Combining their experience in the fields of river navigation and media work, they created a project to support a good cause, a project that would fire the imagination of millions of people: an expedition as an advocacy vehicle to showcase the difficulties and successes in fighting malaria. Their intention is to bring medical care to remote places that are difficult to access and, through the involvement of journalists, to increase public awareness of the malaria epidemic along the river.
A trusted partnership
In 2007, Andy and Helge teamed up with the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership, which brought a substantial growth to the project. A key role of the RBM Partnership is to lead continuing advocacy campaigns to raise awareness of malaria at the global, regional, national and community levels, thus keeping malaria high on the development agenda, mobilizing resources for malaria control and for research into new and more effective tools (including a vaccine), and ensuring that vulnerable individuals are key participants in rolling back malaria. A cooperation of RBM with its public and private partners (ExxonMobil, Malaria No More, Medicines for Malaria Venture, NetsforLife, Novartis, the Southern African Development Community, Sumitomo Chemical, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, The United Nations Foundation and Vestergaard Frandsen) and the support of many suppliers makes the Zambezi Expedition possible.
A dedicated team at the Roll Back Malaria Partnership Secretariat in Geneva coordinates the Zambezi Expedition project. The three expedition boats and one support boat will be steered by a crew of volunteers from Africa and Europe (Tim Cumming, Jürgen Funk, Leo Fahey, Helge Modrow). Both from a logistics base in Johannesburg as well as from his satellite phone while on the road, Andrew Weinberg is working 24/7 to organize and coordinate the expedition land support - two 4x4 cars and one truck driven by Time Kurotwi, Shepherd Mutenga and Llyoid Makaangira Tafirenyika. In Lusaka, Berry Lwando, Michael Mutale and Sipo Kapumba are coordinating local press and liaise with the National Malaria Control Programs, whose medical personnel will join the river crew and will deliver preventions and treatments to where they are needed most.
The Zambezi Expedition crew would like to thank all of you for your support:
Aleyda Santos Acevedo, Robert Appelt, William Asiko, Victoria Balfour, James Banda, Teresa Barberiaç, Gabriel Biel, Peter Böckels, Dick Bower, Richard Carr, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Janine Charpentier, David Chimfwembe, Awa-Marie Coll-Seck, Lezle Combrinck, David Doyle, Martin Edlund, Benjamin Eimannsberger, Kirstin Engemann, Thomas Feld, Julian Fleet, Pere Garcia, Marina Gavriouskhina, Miguel Angel Hita, Philipp Hof, Thomasine Kamerling, Simon Kunene, Brigitte Leemann, Philippe Maze-Sencier, Denise Nelson, Andrew Du Preez, Katie Gates, Michael Gleich, David Guijarro, Katya Halil, Todd Jennings, Philip Kleinot, Klaus Kranewitter, Simon Kunene, Susan Lassen, Lebogang Lebese, Paul Libiszowksi, Mats Lindholm, Philippe Maze-Sencier, Damian McCann, Dennis Moshofsky, Kaka Mudambo, Christoph Müller, Steven Philipps, Paola Piazza, Loic Pollet, Jo Pope, Judith Robb-McCord, Sven Rosenberger, Dirk Rubbert, Felix Scheder-Bieschin, Katharina Schnöring, Armin Schoch, Torsten Sewing, Sherree Shereni, Nuno Silva, Apal Singh, Pru Smith, Ignacio Sabata, Rebecca Stevens, Angus Spiers, Kevin Starace, Ben Summers, Patrick Taglang, Catia Teixeira, Juan Valles, Hervé Verhoosel, Lorenzo Reynes Villalonga, Peter Wähning, Anna Wang, Andonis Warsakis, Martin Woertz, Nell Zink